At about 1:30 a.m. Thursday morning, residents of the South Florida town of Surfside awoke to a terrible sound: an entire wing of a condo building — and the lives of those within in it — crashing down.
Champlain Towers South was built in 1981 on oceanfront property near Miami. It's not at all clear what caused the building to suddenly "pancake," its 12 floors collapsing onto one another.
"That's not an old building," Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said Thursday. "That kind of thing should not be happening."
Rescue teams search for any survivors within the sudden mountain of rubble. Family and friends wait with hope and fear for news at a reunification center nearby.
At least four people died in the disaster; 159 people remain unaccounted for. Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency in Miami-Dade County and President Biden has approved federal aid from FEMA.
The search teams are using dogs, sonar and cameras to try to find any people trapped under the steel, concrete, and possessions from the 130 units affected.
They also used their ears.
"We are listening for sounds," said Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah. "It could be just steel twisting, it could be debris raining down, but not specifically sounds of tapping or sounds of a human voice."
Rain fell on the crews as they worked on Friday, and the forecast called for more.