A British mother and relatives of Paraguay’s first lady are reported to be among the missing after a Miami apartment block collapsed on Thursday.
Nearly 100 people are still unaccounted for 24 hours after part of the 12-storey Champlain Towers South building was reduced to rubble.
One person has been confirmed dead, but the true toll is expected to be much higher.
Sky News reported that Bhavna Patel, a 38-year-old British and US citizen, and her husband and child, are yet to be found.
On Thursday night, Nicolette Brent, the UK’s Consul-General in Miami, visited the family reunification centre in Surfside and said her team was “ready to help any British nationals who may have been involved in this tragic incident”.
The view from above shows the extensive damage
Credit: CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP
It has been confirmed that nine Argentinians, four Venezuelans and three Uruguayans are missing. The sister of Paraguay’s First Lady, along with her husband and three children are also missing.
Hundreds of firefighters, paramedics and search and rescue team members continued to comb through the rubble despite a thunderstorm overnight.
Already, there has been some success.
‘How could anyone survive?’
Nicholas Balboa was walking his dog nearby when he "felt the ground shake, like an earthquake”.
The scene was like that of a horror film and reminiscent of 9/11, he told CNN.
"I was thinking to myself, ‘How could anyone survive?’" he said. "As I was thinking that, I heard a voice yelling."
As he got closer, he saw a boy "sticking his hand up through the debris and I could see his hand and fingers wiggling."
Mr Balboa called for support, and the boy, stuck under a mattress and bed frame, was freed from the rubble.
He is one of 37 people rescued so far. Some were in a much worse state.
In another case, teams saved a mother and child, but the woman’s leg had to be amputated to remove her from the rubble.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said: "It’s a really, really tragic situation so we’ll hope for the best in terms of additional recoveries, but we are bracing for some bad news just given the destruction that we’re seeing."
Search and rescue workers pull a body out of the rubble after the partial collapse of the building
Credit: CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP
Building was about to be repaired
A massive operation has been launched featuring drones and dogs, and involving dozens of police and firefighter units.
Surfside’s town manager Andrew Hyatt told a news conference that search operations could last a week.
Miami-Dade mayor Daniella Levine Cava spoke with Joe Biden by telephone in the hours after the collapse.
Mr Biden said: "I say to the people of Florida, whatever help you want, that the federal government can provide, just ask us, we’ll be there."
It is not yet know what caused the collapse, but the building was about to undergo significant repairs as part of its 40-year recertification, Kenneth Direktor, a lawyer representing the residents’ association, told the New York Times.
The building also showed signs of land subsidence in the 1990s, a 2020 study found.
Records showed the block was built in 1981 and had more than 130 units inside.
Much of the Champlain's beach side sheared off for unknown reasons, pancaking into a pile of concrete and metal more than 30 feet (10 meters) high
Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
People have lost their homes in the destruction
Credit: David Santiago/Miami Herald
Piles of rubble and debris surround the area, and cars up to two blocks away have been coated with a light layer of dust.
Inside the building, bunk beds, tables and chairs can be seen from the ground.
‘We pray for miracles’
“This is a tragedy without precedent in the United States of America,” said congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
“The devastation that I witnessed today is the likes of which I have never seen.”
“It’s a dark and tragic day,” said Marco Rubio, a US Senator from Florida.
“From it, we continue to pray for some miracles, and we are inspired by the men and women, the heroes, who are out there right now risking their lives to hopefully rescue people.”
A spokesman for the UK in America told The Telegraph: “We are working with the local authorities in Miami-Dade county to establish if any British nationals have been involved in the residential building collapse that took place earlier today."