United Kingdom

British mother reported among missing in Miami building collapse - watch press conference live

A pregnant British mother, her husband and their one-year-old daughter are believed to be among nearly 100 people still unaccounted for after an ocean front apartment block in Miami collapsed in the middle of the night.

Bhavna and Vishal Patel, along with daughter Aishani were staying at the 12-storey Champlain Towers South building when it was reduced to rubble on Thursday, according to a family member.

Pleas have been made for help locating the family, as questions have been asked about the structural failings of the building.

The building was about to be repaired for rusted steel and damaged concrete, according to a lawyer involved in the project.

Salt water from the sea can penetrate buildings and begin to corrode steel elements.

The death toll has risen to three, ABC News reported, but the true toll is expected to be much higher and a press conference has been called for 8am local time (1pm GMT).

President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration in the state of Florida and ordered federal assistance to supplement state and local response efforts.

"The President's action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts," the White House said on Friday.

'How could anyone survive?'

Nicholas Balboa was walking his dog nearby when he "felt the ground shake, like an earthquake”.

The scene was like that of a horror film and reminiscent of 9/11, he told CNN.

"I was thinking to myself, ‘How could anyone survive?’" he said. "As I was thinking that, I heard a voice yelling."

As he got closer, he saw a boy "sticking his hand up through the debris and I could see his hand and fingers wiggling."

Mr Balboa called for support, and the boy, stuck under a mattress and bed frame, was freed from the rubble.

He is one of 37 people rescued so far. Some were in a much worse state.

In another case, teams saved a mother and child, but the woman's leg had to be amputated to remove her from the rubble.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said: "It's a really, really tragic situation so we'll hope for the best in terms of additional recoveries, but we are bracing for some bad news just given the destruction that we're seeing."

Building was about to be repaired 

A massive operation has been launched featuring drones and dogs, and involving dozens of police and firefighter units.

Surfside's town manager Andrew Hyatt told a news conference that search operations could last a week.

Miami-Dade mayor Daniella Levine Cava spoke with Joe Biden by telephone in the hours after the collapse.

Mr Biden said: "I say to the people of Florida, whatever help you want, that the federal government can provide, just ask us, we'll be there."

It is not yet know what caused the collapse, but the building was about to undergo significant repairs as part of its 40-year recertification, Kenneth Direktor, a lawyer representing the residents’ association, told the New York Times.

The building also showed signs of land subsidence in the 1990s, a 2020 study found.

Records showed the block was built in 1981 and had more than 130 units inside.

Piles of rubble and debris surround the area, and cars up to two blocks away have been coated with a light layer of dust.

Inside the building, bunk beds, tables and chairs can be seen from the ground.

'We pray for miracles' 

“This is a tragedy without precedent in the United States of America,” said congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

“The devastation that I witnessed today is the likes of which I have never seen.”

“It’s a dark and tragic day,” said Marco Rubio, a US Senator from Florida.

“From it, we continue to pray for some miracles, and we are inspired by the men and women, the heroes, who are out there right now risking their lives to hopefully rescue people.”

A spokesman for the UK in America told The Telegraph: “We are working with the local authorities in Miami-Dade county to establish if any British nationals have been involved in the residential building collapse that took place earlier today."


Last night, Nicolette Brent, the UK’s Consul General in Miami visited the family reunification centre in Surfside and said her team was “ready to help any British nationals who may have been involved in this tragic incident.”

The Champlain Towers South drew people from around the globe to enjoy life on South Florida's Atlantic Coast, some for a night, some to live. A couple from Argentina and their young daughter. A beloved retired Miami-area teacher and his wife. Orthodox Jews from Russia. Israelis. The sister of Paraguay's first lady. Others from South America.

They were among the nearly 100 people who remained missing Friday morning. 

It has been confirmed that nine Argentinians, four Venezuelans and three Uruguayans are also missing. 

The sister of the Paraguay’s First Lady, along with her husband and three young children are also missing.

Luis Pettengill, the father of the husband and grandfather to the three-year-old, six-year-old and nine-year-old told the Telegraph: "We have to hope that they are in hospital."

The family had just arrived in Miami for a month-long holiday. Tuesday was the mother's birthday.

Standing on the beach, ashen faced, looking at the twisted metal and mounds of rubble Luis said: "They came here for a vacation. To swim in the sea. To have a good time. They came to a safe place."

Hundreds of firefighters, paramedics and search and rescue team members continued to comb through the rubble despite a thunderstorm overnight. 

Already, there has been some success.

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