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Rescue efforts ‘in full force’ after Surfside building collapse, Mayor Burkett says

Miami rescuers on Thursday searched the ruins of a beachfront building after it collapsed before dawn, killing at least one person and leaving at least 99 missing in the rubble. John Yang reports on the collapse, and Judy Woodruff is joined by phone with more from the mayor of Surfside, Charles Burkett.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Our second major story tonight is in Miami, where rescuers searched the ruins of a beachfront condominium building after it collapsed before dawn.

    At least one person was confirmed killed, but nearly 100 were missing. John Yang reports.

  • John Yang:

    Chaos early this morning in Miami-Dade County when part of a 12-story condo building suddenly collapsed. It happened around 1:30 a.m. in Surfside, Florida.

    Emergency crews rushed to the scene to search for people trapped in the rubble. The catastrophic destruction became more apparent as daylight broke. This is what part of the building looked like before, housing about half of the building's 130 units, now just a pile of rubble.

    Charles Burkett, Mayor of Surfside, Florida: The building has literally pancaked. There's just feet in between stories where there were 10 feet. That is heartbreaking because it doesn't mean to me that we're going to be as successful as we would want to be to find people alive.

  • John Yang:

    Search operations continued, as many residents remained unaccounted for.

    A reunification site for residents and relatives was set up at a nearby community center. Some embraced one another. Others wept.

    Nicolas Fernandez has friends who live in the building.

  • Nicolas Fernandez, Florida Resident:

    I came running here. And I'm trying to see what's going on. And when I saw the building, like, I'm just hoping that I'm dreaming.

  • John Yang:

    Florida Governor Ron DeSantis toured the scene.

  • Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL):

    TV doesn't do it justice, I mean, it is really, really traumatic to see the collapse of a massive structure like that.

  • John Yang:

    As the search for survivors and victims continues, the search for the cause of the collapse begins.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm John Yang.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And for the very latest on this, we're joined now by phone now with the mayor of Surfside, Charles Burkett, whom you just heard in John's report.

    Mayor Burkett, thank you so much for talking with us.

    Please tell us, what is the very latest on the search for survivors?

    And, again, we are so sorry for the loss.

  • Charles Burkett:

    Thank you.

    The latest is, is that we have our resources completely focused on pulling people out of the rubble. And we will continue to do that until that job is done. There's no time limit on that. We will just continue to do that until we finish.

    We have had a couple of setbacks today. The weather did not cooperate as much as we would have liked, but we're back on track right now, and we're running at full force.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    There have been news reports of sounds coming from the rubble. Can you confirm that that's the case?

  • Charles Burkett:

    Well, listen, we were out there. I was out there at 2:00 this morning, so it's been — it's been a long day of stops and starts.

    The dogs got here around 4:00 in the morning. We did have some hits, which is good, but not enough. You know, we did find a little boy in the rubble, which you probably are aware of. And we have had other meaningful hits, although the work continues right now.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    A little boy alive?

  • Charles Burkett:

    A little boy alive, 10 years old.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Mr. Mayor, is there a sense, do you have the materials you need, the people you need to pursue this as aggressively…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Go ahead.

  • Charles Burkett:

    Well, I will tell you that I have had a call from the president of the United States. Both of our United States senators have called me, Scott and Rubio.

    The governor has been here. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is here, and the mayor of Dade County has been here on scene. The resources are unbelievable. We're not short on resources. We're just a little short on luck right now. And I'm hoping that's going to change.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Is there any information at this point, Mayor Burkett, on what might the cause have been?

  • Charles Burkett:

    So, you know, this is America. This is the United States. We're a First World country. Buildings do not fall down like this.

    These two buildings went down not unlike what we saw in 2001. It was just horrific. And it's almost — there are no words for it, except that we're dealing with it. And we're going to stay on it until the job is done.

    The answer to your question is, is, no, we don't have any information on why this happened, other than a couple of theories. But now is not the time for those theories. Now is the time to save lives, and that's what I intend to do.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, just in connection with that, we can understand that.

    We — there are also reports that the building was about to undergo refurbishing having to do with the structure.

    Can you add anything to that?

  • Charles Burkett:

    I don't know that that's completely accurate.

    I do know that they were re-roofing the building. And, as you know, buildings are re-roofed all the time, and they don't fall down. So it's hard to imagine that that was the impetus. I mean, there was obviously something seriously wrong here. And we need to get to the bottom of it.

    And we will. That, I promise. But, right now, we're focused 100 percent on saving lives and pulling people out of that rubble, because that's all that matters. We're going to do it 24 hours a day, and we're going to do it around the clock until it's done.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    No question about it, that is the priority, Mayor Charles Burkett of Surfside, Florida.

    And, again, our thoughts are with everyone in the community.

  • Charles Burkett:

    Thank you for your help.

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