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1 Dead In Miami-Area Condo Collapse


Rescue teams are searching for survivors after a 12-story residential building partially collapsed overnight in South Florida. Images from the scene in Surfside, north of Miami Beach, show a pile of rubble on one side of the building. At least one person died in the collapse. Multiple others have been treated for injuries.

For more, we're joined by Veronica Zaragovia of member station WLRN in Miami. Veronica, thanks for being here. Can you just tell us what the situation is right now?

VERONICA ZARAGOVIA, BYLINE: Yes, Rachel. I - you know, it's just still a lot of confusion and chaos. When I first got there at about 5:30 in the morning, the police had sectioned off the media quite a bit away from the actual building. So my colleague at WLRN, Danny Rivero, and I ran to the beach - to the actual sand to get behind and be able to see a really horrifying scene of the northeast side of this building that's been largely collapsed with material hanging out. And officials are being tight-lipped at the moment about the rescue operation. They've told us they've taken out 35 occupants from the structure and part of the collapse. Two people were pulled out from the rubble, and they told us that two people are receiving hospital care. And that's all they would say. They would not confirm anything else about fatalities or where people are getting treatment. They've given out a hotline for people to call in to try to get information about missing loved ones.

MARTIN: Is there any indication at this point what might have caused the collapse?

ZARAGOVIA: No. At this point, I do not have anything on - at the official level of what happened. We've been hearing all sorts of speculation they've been - that might have caused this to collapse. But they did confirm that, you know, a hundred percent, that this is not - this has nothing to do with terrorism.

MARTIN: What about the part of the building that is still standing? Are there concerns, Veronica, that it might collapse as well?

ZARAGOVIA: Yes, they are concerned. I spoke to an architect who said, you know, sometimes, like, the weight of this - of what happened on the northeast side could cause - could have implications for the rest of it. The officials who gave us a very brief press conference because it started raining said that this will take at least a week of worth - of work - sorry - and that fire and rescue are shoring up the structure on the inside as they continue to tunnel in to locate additional survivors.

MARTIN: Hmm. So in your reporting, you've been out there on the scene talking to people. What are they telling you?

ZARAGOVIA: Oh, it's hard to see. I spoke to one guy, Nicolas Fernandez (ph), who told me that his family has two units in that building. And one of them is unit 803, and it's completely gone. And what's worse is that they had friends, two people and their daughter from Argentina who are in town visiting. And they saw them last night, and they offered them to stay in this unit. And they've been calling all morning taking turns, calling and calling, and they're not getting an answer. The phone is ringing, but nobody's answering. And he was just distraught and crying. And everybody is just - it's a small community. This is a small neighborhood north of Miami Beach where people know each other. It's very pedestrian friendly, and they pass by there all the time. There are probably elderly people who live there and families. Yeah, it's tough.

MARTIN: It's hard to live with - in this moment, with that kind of ambiguity, hoping your loved ones are safe. Veronica Zaragovia, we appreciate your reporting, and we'll check back in with you as the story evolves.

Veronica Zaragovia of member station WLRN in Miami.

ZARAGOVIA: Thank you, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Verónica Zaragovia was born in Cali, Colombia, and grew up in South Florida. She’s been a lifelong WLRN listener and is proud to cover health care for the station. Verónica has a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master's degree in journalism. For many years, Veronica lived out of a suitcase (or two) in New York City, Tel Aviv, Hong Kong, Las Vegas, D.C., San Antonio and Austin, where she worked as the statehouse and health care reporter with NPR member station KUT.
Veronica Zaragovia
Veronica Zaragovia reports on state government for KUT. She's reported as a legislative relief news person with the Associated Press in South Dakota and has contributed reporting to NPR, PRI's The World, Here & Now and Latino USA, the Agence France Presse, TIME in Hong Kong and PBS NewsHour, among others. She has two degrees from Columbia University, and has dedicated much of her adult life to traveling, learning languages and drinking iced coffee.
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