Recordings of 911 calls released from the scene of the Florida condominium building collapse reveal the chaos and anguish ignited by the tragedy that killed at least 97 people.
One man, who said he was fleeing the building with a group of family members and others, said he heard people screaming for help from the rubble.
“There are people yelling, saying they are stuck in the part of the building that collapsed,” he said on the call. “They they keep yelling. … There are people in the rubble yelling.”
In the minutes after the collapse, a bystander heard the muffled cries of a 15-year-old boy. First responders quickly rescued him and his mother from the wreckage, but she did not survive.
So far 97 bodies and no other survivors have been extricated from the ruins of Champlain Towers South, the 13-story beachfront building that collapsed June 24 in Surfside, a few miles north of Miami Beach. Authorities say eight people remain unaccounted for and are feared dead in the rubble.
Miami-Dade police on Wednesday released recordings of about 20 calls that began coming in shortly after 1 a.m. The department did not identify the callers.
“Oh my God! The whole building collapsed!” one caller told a dispatcher.
Some callers were in a part of the building that did not collapse. Escape routes for many were blocked, elevators didn’t work, and some people were rescued from balconies. The rest of the building was torn down days later amid concerns that it would tumble down in a storm.
“We’ve gotta get out. Hurry up, hurry up. There’s a big explosion,” one caller said. “There’s a lot of smoke. I can’t see anything. We gotta go. I can’t see nothing but smoke.”
One woman told a dispatcher she woke up to a loud noise and saw a large depression near the swimming pool.
“I couldn’t understand what was happening,” she said breathlessly. “I looked outside and I saw the patio area sinking down. The pool area started sinking down. The building went into a sinkhole. So there will be many, many people dead.
“I saw the whole building going under the ground.”
Some callers said they were trapped in or near the building parking garage, which flooded with water.
“Can somebody help me get out, please? If the building comes down, it will come down on my head,” one caller said.
Authorities have not determined the cause of the collapse, although several warnings of possible structural damage to the 40-year-old building had been issued in the past.
A Florida judge on Wednesday approved plans to seek a buyer for the oceanfront property where the building once stood. Proceeds would benefit survivors of the deadly disaster and families of the victims. A portion of the site also could be dedicated to a memorial honoring victims.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: ‘There are people in the rubble yelling’: 911 calls reveal panic, anguish at Surfside, Florida, condo collapse