Mass fatalities feared in building collapse in heavily Orthodox area near Miami

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(JTA) — Jewish emergency response services are participating in a search-and-rescue mission after a 12-story apartment building collapsed in Surfside, Florida, a heavily Orthodox town near Miami Beach.

At least one person has been killed in the collapse, which took place without warning at about 2 a.m., and authorities in Surfside say they fear many more fatalities. The building, part of a complex called Champlain Towers, is home to year-round residents rather than people who move there from colder climates for the winter.

Hatzalah of South Florida, an Orthodox ambulance service, has established a command center at the collapse site, according to a tweet posted early Thursday by Chevra Hatzalah, the service covering New York City.

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Nearly half of Surfside’s roughly 6,000 residents are Orthodox Jews, many associated with the Hasidic Chabad movement, which established a presence in the area in the 1980s. WhatsApp groups with many Orthodox Jews who have ties to the area buzzed Thursday with concerns about community members.

The collapsed building is on Collins Avenue, one mile south of The Shul, an Orthodox synagogue where Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed last week signed bills granting new privileges to Hatzalah of South Florida and creating a daily moment of silence in Florida schools.

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