A 12-story beachfront apartment building partially collapsed in Miami suburb early on Thursday morning, killing at least one person and trapping residents in rubble.
Authorities said they expected the death toll to rise. Scores of rescuers rushed to pull survivors from the debris as a cloud of dust floated through the neighborhood.
The seaside apartment block is located in Surfside, a town just north of Miami Beach. The neighbourhood has a mix of apartments, houses and hotels hosting an international combination of residents and tourists.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said roof work was underway on the tower block, but it was not immediately clear what may have caused the building to come down.
The collapse left a number of homes in the still-standing part of the building exposed. Television footage showed bunk beds, tables and chairs still left inside.
"I've lived here my whole life, and I've never seen anything like this happen," Burkett said.
Barry Cohen, the former vice mayor of Surfside, said he and his wife were asleep in the building when he first heard what he thought was a crack of lightning. The couple went onto their balcony, then opened the door to the building's hallway to find `"a pile of rubble and dust and smoke billowing around."
"I couldn't walk out past my doorway,'' he said. `"A gaping hole of rubble."
He and his wife eventually made it to the basement and found rising water there. They returned upstairs, screamed for help and were eventually brought to safety by firefighters using a cherry-picker.
Police blocked nearby roads, and scores of fire and rescue vehicles, ambulances and police cars swarmed the area. Teams of firefighters walked through the rubble, picking up survivors and carrying them from the wreckage.