JNS with EJP
Officials said that least one person died and at least 150 others were unaccounted for after a building partially collapsed in the Miami suburb of Surfside early Thursday.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue said that they sent 80 vehicles to the scene with fears that many were trapped inside and that the building could collapse entirely. A hotel next door was evacuated.
Among those rescued were building resident Barry Cohen and his wife.
Wearing a kipah and a Jewish Federation of Greater Miami T-shirt, he was interviewed on Thursday morning by CNN and other media. Cohen said he had been in a deep sleep when he heard “a crashing noise that kept going and going for 30 seconds.”
Opening the door to the hallway, “there was nothing there,” he told CNN. “It was just a pile of dust and rubble and paint falling from the ceilings. … When we were waiting for the firetruck to approach the building, the building was still shaking. It just seemed like it was very unsteady. And I just, you know, knowing how what it looked like outside my door, I thought that any minute, we could be that same pile of rubble.”
The 12-story Champlain Towers is located at 8777 Collins Avenue. The building reportedly contains more than 100 beachfront apartments and was built in 1981.
Surfside is “Miami’s most Jewish neighborhood,” according to a story in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. The town of 6,000 people was home to at least 2,500 Orthodox Jews as of 2018, according to the JTA report.
According to Assistant Chief Raide Jadallah of the Miami-Dade Fire rescue, 35 people were rescued from the building and two were pulled from the rubble of the Champlain Towers building, which was built in 1981. Ten people have been assessed and treated, and two were transported to the hospital. Jadallah said the northeast corridor of the building collapse affecting 55 units.
Among the first responders on the scene were 20 members of Hatzalah of South Florida, a volunteer medical service made up primarily of Orthodox Jews.
“Hatzalah is working closely with Miami-Dade Fire Rescue and other agencies. Our role is to give medical attention to patients and deal with the families,” Joseph Dahan, a Hatzalah director who has been at the scene since shortly after the collapse happened, told JNS.
He said the Hatzalah dispatch center received a number of calls reporting the collapse of the building a few blocks away from The Shul in Bal Harbour, Fla., a large Chabad synagogue that draws worshippers and visitors from throughout Southeast Florida.
Gabriel Groisman, the mayor of Bal Harbour, which is adjacent to Surfside, tweeted: “Absolutely devastating scene in our neighboring city, Surfside. About half of Champlain South collapsed at around 2 am. Building was mostly occupied. I am replete with shock and sadness, am praying for the residents and their families, and am thankful for our first responders.”
He also noted that he used to live in that very building as a child.