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The Mayor Of Surfside, Fla., Says The Building Collapse Reminds Him Of 9/11

Rescue workers walk beside the rubble as rescue efforts continue where a wing of a 12-story beachfront condo building collapsed Thursday in Surfside, Fla.
Rescue workers walk beside the rubble as rescue efforts continue where a wing of a 12-story beachfront condo building collapsed Thursday in Surfside, Fla.

Updated June 25, 2021 at 9:49 AM ET

Search and rescue teams worked through the night to try to find survivors of a 12-story condo building collapse in Surfside, Fla., near Miami. So far, 159 people are missing and four people have died, according to Miami officials.

The cause is still unknown, and Charles Burkett, mayor of Surfside, Fla., tells Morning Edition that the focus Friday, a day after the collapse, remains search and rescue.

But video of the collapse, he says, is "really reminiscent" of the way the World Trade Center towers looked as they collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001.

"After you see the video — which we hadn't seen until much later in the day — it was obvious that these buildings just sort of came straight down on top of each other, and it appears there were two separate collapses," he tells host Rachel Martin.

Speaking at the scene, Burkett says crews were removing dangerous pieces off the side of the building. And, he says, a fire rages inside the rubble, too deep to extinguish safely.

"It's heartbreaking, but our only focus right now is search and rescue. That's all we're doing. Search and rescue. Search and rescue. Search and rescue, 24 hours a day."

After this phase, he will focus on the cause.

"How it happened is something that is not a concern today but it is a serious concern," he says. "Buildings in America just do not fall down like this. This is a Third World phenomenon and we need to absolutely find out what's going on and we plan to. But right now it's all search and rescue."

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