A disastrous building collapse just north of Miami Beach in which at least one person was killed has the potential to be a major tragedy.

Fifty-one people believed to have been in the building are unaccounted for and fears for their welfare persisted into early afternoon.

The 12-story, 136-unit Champlain Towers South Condo complex partially collapsed around 1:30 a.m. ET on Thursday. The Surfside, Fla., building was constructed in 1981.

At a Thursday news conference, Miami-Dade County Fire Chief Ray Jadallah said 55 units collapsed and 35 people were rescued from the building. 

Two people were removed from the rubble, 10 were treated at the scene and two were taken to a hospital, he said.

Miami-Dade Commissioner Sally Heyman told CNN that the 51 people unaccounted for are assumed to have been living in the partially collapsed section of the building.

She said it was unclear if all 51 people were in the building when it collapsed because of “vacations or anything else, so we’re still waiting …”

“The back of the building, probably a third or more, is totally pancaked,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett told a news conference.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said he planned to visit the scene later in the day.

“We are bracing for some bad news just given the destruction that we’re seeing,” he said.

Of the possible victims in the rubble, hopes finding survivors are fading.

“The rest of the search-and-rescue efforts has been done by manpower on the outside, search on the barrier quarters, also with drones and with dogs. It has shifted now or started to shift to recovery,” Heyman said.

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said: “This is a horrific catastrophe. In the United States, buildings just don’t fall down.”

A Miami Herald report quotes a local home insurance inspector who said she’d been at the building in February 2020 for a client, verifying impact windows and doors and that the collapse is puzzling.

“As someone who has been in this business for years, it defies logic,” she told the paper. “It defies everything that we know.”

According to Miami Real Estate Trends, units in the building range in price from $409,000 to $2.8 million.

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