SURFSIDE, Fla. — Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Friday that officials have confirmed that four people have died following a partial building collapse in the Miami area. She added that 159 people are still missing.
Cava said that firefighters pulled three additional deceased victims from the wreckage during a "tragic night" Thursday and early Friday morning. Officials said search and rescue efforts are ongoing.
"We still have hope that we will find people alive," Cava said.
Cava later defined "missing" or "unaccounted for" people as those who "may or may not have been on the site" at the time of the collapse.
Cava praised the 130 firefighters who are currently putting themselves at risk by searching through potentially unstable piles of debris. She called their actions "incredibly moving."
"They have to be pulled off shifts; that's how motivated they are," she said.
On Thursday, officials said they pulled 37 people from the structure in the moments after the collapse. Eleven people were treated on the scene for injuries, and several were transported to hospitals for treatment.
President Joe Biden on Friday morning approved an emergency declaration tied to the collapse. The action unlocks federal funding and disaster assistance from FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security.
"Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency," a statement from the White House read.
In a press conference Friday afternoon, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis thanked the Biden administration for working quickly to unlock federal aid.
DeSantis also lauded the Surfside community, the state and the country for "coming together" to support the victims and their families.
"Nobody is quitting here; we're going to stand by those families," DeSantis said.
He also called for a "timely" investigation into the cause of the collapse.
"We need a definitive explanation as to how this could have happened," DeSantis said.
It's currently unclear what caused the building to collapse.
According to Scripps station WPTV in Palm Beach, Florida, the Champlain South Towers were built in 1981. Officials were scheduled to conduct a 40-year re-certification process later this year.