One person has been confirmed dead after a beachfront apartment tower partially collapsed in the Miami-area town of Surfside, trapping residents in rubble and twisted metal and sending a cloud of debris throughout the neighbourhood.
More than 80 rescue units rushed to the partially collapsed 12-storey building early on Thursday morning and firefighters were seen pulling survivors from the debris.
Santo Mejil, 50, told the Miami Herald his wife called him from the building, where she was working as an aide for an elderly woman.
“She said she heard a big explosion. It felt like an earthquake,” Mr Mejil told the newspaper. He said she later called him and said rescuers were bringing her down.
It was unclear how many people lived in the building or who had been inside at the time, but local news station NBC 6 South Florida reported that firefighters pulled one boy from the rubble alive.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue confirmed the fatality on Thursday morning local time and said the rescue mission was continuing.
“We’re on the scene so it’s still very active,” said Sergeant Marian Cruz of the Surfside Police Department.
“What I can tell you is the building is 12 floors. The entire back side of the building has collapsed.”
Victor Cohen, who lives nearby, told television station WPLG the building had been undergoing a major renovation when the ocean-front wing “collapsed like a pancake”.
Teams of firefighters walked through the rubble, picking up survivors and carrying them from the wreckage.
The collapse left a number of units in the still-standing part of the building exposed.
Television footage showed bunk beds, tables and chairs still left inside the damaged apartments. Air conditioner units were hanging from some parts of the building, where wires now dangled.
Police blocked nearby roads, as fire and rescue vehicles, ambulances and police cars swarmed the area.
Photos and video from the scene show the collapse affected roughly half the tower.
The department has yet to say what may have caused the collapse.
The development was built in 1981 in the southeast corner of Surfside, on the beach.
It had a few two-bedroom units currently on the market, with asking prices of $US600,000-700,000 ($A790,000-925,000).
The area is a mix of new and old apartments, houses and hotels, with restaurants and stores serving an international combination of residents and tourists.