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At This Hour

At Least 51 People Unaccounted For In Condo Collapse; Soon: Biden & Harris Meet with Lawmakers on Infrastructure. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired June 24, 2021 - 11:00   ET


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Is really at the heart of the fight for the heart of America.


So we will continue to have your voice on this, on this show and watch closely what happens in Minneapolis and across the country. We talk you this morning.


HARLOW: And thank you to all of us for joining us today on this breaking news which we will continue to cover here on CNN. We'll see you tomorrow morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.


AT THIS HOUR with Kate Bolduan starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

We are beginning with breaking news out of south Florida. It is a race against time at this hour. A massive search and rescue operation is ongoing after half of a 12-story condo building just north of Miami Beach collapsed overnight.

Moments ago, we received new video showing the moment of collapse. It's surveillance video. You are not going to hear anything but it is terrifying. Let's play it.


BOLDUAN: You see first one section of the building collapsed and then seconds later another section of the building just collapsed and then the smoke rising from the rubble right after that.

One eyewitness describing the scene as horrific, and you understand why they say that after you see that surveillance video. At least one person has died. More than 50 people are unaccounted for right now. Dozens of fire trucks and crews have been on the scene since early this morning.

Fire and rescue confirm that two people have been pulled from the rubble alive. We have video of what appears to be one of them. A young boy being pulled out very early this morning.

Now, CNN's Leyla Santiago, she is live at the scene for us still in Surfside, Florida.

Leyla, what is the very latest there?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That number that just came in, the 51 people who have been reported to the hotline sent up by the county for family members and loved ones to say, hey, we haven't been able to reach someone that may have been in that building.

Now, let's go over a few other numbers because that number is the latest new figure that gives us an understanding, a better understanding of what rescue units are dealing with. But we also know there are 130 units in there. Nearly half of them, we're talking about 55, collapsed when that partial collapse took place.

I've spoken to people who describe it as the sound of a bomb that went off. One woman said it sounded like the engine of a plane. We know that 35 people were rescued. Two people taken from under the rubble. And one of them we know was quite frankly because of heroes.

I want to you listen to this.


NICHOLAS BALBOA, HELPED RESCUE PEOPLE FROM COLLAPSED BUILDING: I could hear -- I could hear somebody yelling and screaming. So, myself and another individual, we decided to get closer. It was at that point that I could begin to hear him clearly and hear by his voice that he was, you know, a little boy. Couldn't have been more than in his preteens.

So then I saw an arm sticking out of the wreckage and he was screaming, can you see me and what not. So we started to kind of climb up to him, to try and see if we could get him free. But it was too heavy, too much rebar and stuff like that. It was going to take quite a bit of effort to get him out.

But he was screaming don't leave me, don't leave me, don't leave me. And so we wanted to stay with him and make sure that we got fire and police over there. So I was able to signal police officer using the flashlight of my phone and so the police officer came over, he got up to him, I was wearing flip-flops so it made the climb a little difficult, but they got up to him, he got a perspective and then he got fire over there to start digging him out.


SANTIAGO: And so they're hoping for more moments like that, where they could get to people before it is too late. I can tell that you the research is very much still active. The portion of the building that is still standing has been cleared but they are still very much on scene, trying to search using dogs, using K-9 units.

I spoke to the mayor a few minutes ago and she said that she's very hopeful that they will -- that they have all of the resources they need right now. But, of course, there are challenges. One being a building that is not stable right now. The other being the fact that it's raining.

But I can tell you that what struck me when I first arrived was the massive response, more than 80 units responded and I've seen it -- people from trauma units to the state attorney's office.


I saw someone from there.

So there is a very big effort to get to the bottom of what happened and to try to save lives at this point. One may be under the debris, but again that just coming in. Fifty-one people unaccounted for and that's coming from Miami commissioner that has given us that information -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thanks so much, Leyla. I really appreciate it.

Joining me now is Tom Von Essen. He was the former FDNY commissioner who led search and rescue operations after the 9/11 attacks here in New York.

Tom, we're going to play the video of that surveillance video that just came into CNN again. And I gist and I just want to get your reaction in seeing this moment of collapse.

Tom, can you hear me?


BOLDUAN: Yeah, your reaction. I know you've seen that video, that surveillance video. You're reaction to seeing that video?

VON ESSEN: I was in total shock when I saw it because my impression of up until that point was a much less significant part of the building that had collapsed. That was an enormous amount of concrete and steel and 12 stories and square foot, the project, the mess that those rescuers have to get through as quickly as possible is enormous.

And it's -- it's a very scary, I think, what is in front of us is going to be more fatalities. There is just no question about that. How many, you don't know. But there will be more fatalities.

BOLDUAN: One-thirty this morning is when fire and rescue said the first calls came in and crews very quickly, you know, flooded the scene. I wonder, you know, we're sitting at 11:06 in the morning, what kind of -- there is a race against time at a moment and dealing with really bad weather that is blowing through, some really -- big serious thunderstorms. What kind of a race against time are they up against here in order to try to find more survivors? VON ESSEN: Well, the weight of the collapse is the biggest problem if

they have to deal with. And there is concerns certainly about more collapse. But I think even worse than or more important to the rescuers, the search and rescue Miami-Dade firefighters, the rescue they brought in, it is a lot of special skills that you need to get through that debris safely without the heavy equipment that they will be bringing in also.

So some of that concrete and steel, you just can't move now matter how many firefighters and people you have trying to move it. But they are concerned that it will move and on top of the rescuers that they have digging tunnels under there to try to find survivors.

So, of course, we don't know how long people could survive the amount of weight that we had, the debris that we had, the destruction of September 11th was very different. The dust was so heavy that nobody could survive. This looks like a typical collapse where you have concrete and steel and people could be alive under there for a long period of time.

So what you want to do is get to them without any more movement, without any of the that heavy weight to -- you don't want that to move and to destroy them now, to kill them now after they've been lucky enough, we hope, that there are some folks under there that are waiting for someone to get them out as quickly as possible.

BOLDUAN: We know that in Miami-Dade Fire and Rescue said that they have the heavy equipment, I think he called it paratechs (ph), I'm sure you're more familiar with it than I, but they're in the process of trying to secure the inside of the building.

And I think that kind of leads to what you're talking about. The concerns in the complex challenges that they're trained in of how quickly to move in with this heavy equipment because I'm sure folks are thinking, why can't they just get in there with a bunch of big cranes and lift the heavy concrete slabs off of them.

VON ESSEN: And that would be easy if you weren't worried about those slabs moving and killing people who are now alive. So you have to do it very slowly, it's time consuming.

The 80 units that have responded with, you know, 300, 400 firefighters, not every one of those firefighters have the skills that you need. So you have to bring in more folks like that.

You talked before about urban search and rescue teams, Miami, I know Florida has a couple of them, they'll probably bring in some more. But everybody is working at a feverish pace, but as calmly and professionally as they can. They don't want to move that debris, put the rescuers in danger, and to, you know, ruin the chance of getting more survivors out.


BOLDUAN: I was really struck this morning. The mayor there said that seeing the firefighters running into this building before anything was flown about how structurally sound or unsound the rest of the building was, reminded the mayor himself of the FDNY on 9/11. What do you think when you hear that, Tom?

VON ESSEN: I thought the mayor did a great job describing the situation. And he's absolutely right. I got the chilled too, when I just saw that video a few minutes ago when it came down, all I could think of was what we dealt with that day when we had a 30-story building that we could not even go in it because we had no people available. But we had gotten everybody out. And we watched that building collapse later on in the day.

And the idea of just not being able to do anything in the situation like that is really, really difficult. But they've got as good of a team as you could possibly have down there. They probably need more help and they will be doing it as good as it could be done. You can't ask to be in better hands than what you've got, those guys and folks working down there now.

BOLDUAN: Yeah. Commissioner, thank you for being here. Fifty people unaccounted for right now. I think we always will hold out hope and cover every moment as this -- as this continues to unfold. Search and rescue, a massive search and rescue underway, we're going to continue to bring you breaking developments throughout this hour.

Also ahead for us, it is become a make-or-break moment for President Biden. In just moments, he's going to be meeting with lawmakers after a bipartisan group of senators, they announced a framework of a bipartisan infrastructure deal. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just made a big announcement as well on Capitol Hill. The very latest on both of those headlines coming up.



BOLDUAN: Developing at this hour, a critical meeting at the White House. It is a make-or-break moment for President Biden's domestic agenda and the president will meet shortly with lawmakers after bipartisan Senate negotiators announced a breakthrough, a tentative agreement on a framework of a major infrastructure package.

Joining me right now is CNN's John Harwood. He's live at the White House and Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.

John, first to you.

What are you hearing about this meeting with Biden and this group today?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Kate, I think this is an opportunity for President Biden to recap the details of this plan with the senators involved as he's been going over them with his staff last night and this morning. And also to try to secure the understanding that this is going to get the support of enough Republicans to overcome a Republican filibuster. Many hurdles remain and I'm sure Manu will lay those out, criticism

from the left and from the right. But what this deal does is create the possibility that in fact on the second part of the two track agenda that president has been pursuing, first on the pandemic and second on changing the long-term course of the American economy that he could end up delivering a substantial portion of what he has requested from the Congress, not in one piece but in two pieces -- first in this bipartisan deal, if they could get that over the finish line.

And then in the larger Democrats only deal in reconciliation, the special budget process which would address many things that are not addressed in this bipartisan deal.

BOLDUAN: So then, Manu, from your perch, how close or how far are they right now from a real finish line, like enough support to overcome a filibuster?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is just too early to say right now. Because they need to draft this legislation and get every side needs to be briefed about it and people need to review it and we're still weeks away from those key votes.

But if the Democrats leadership gets behind it and Joe Biden gets behind it, it is a good chance of passing. Mitch McConnell just had a briefing with top Republicans moments ago about what this was in this plan and according to the senators who came out of that meeting, McConnell is in listening mode, they say. He's evaluating it. He's not saying how he could come down. There's still a lot of questions because some of the details have not been sorted out.

On the left the pushback has been loud, including from one Senator Richard Blumenthal, who I just talked to moments ago who called this, quote, pathetic. He called it also paltry. He said that he needs an ironclad commitment that they will move a larger bill along party lines separately or at the same time, that needs to be assured to him before he even considers voting for a smaller bipartisan deal.

But then there's a problem because moderates like Joe Manchin told us just earlier today that he was not in favor of a price tag up to $6 trillion for that larger package that some liberals are talking about and he said he would not make any commitment about moving on that party line approach just yet. So you can see the difficult balancing act that the Democratic leaders have to do and also the fact that they had to draft legislation.

So, a lot needs to happen between now and the meantime before it gets to Joe Biden's desk. But at the moment they are digesting it and they want to see the deals.

BOLDUAN: So, in short far, they are far from the finish line but every step actually matters, every step forward.

Manu, you also -- Speaker Pelosi just made a big announcement, something you were reporting on first, a select committee to investigate the attack on Capitol on January 6. [11:20:00]

Let me play for everyone what Speaker Pelosi said.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Announcing that the House will be establishing a select committee on the January 6 insurrection. Again, January 6 was one of the darkest days in our nation's history. I've said it now three times. It is imperative that we establish the truth of that day.


BOLDUAN: You reported that this was coming, Manu. What are you hearing about it, now?

RAJU: Yeah, that she is moving forward and that was very clear that this would happen. She denied on Tuesday night that she made any decision but we heard very clearly from sources that she was expected to do just that, because of her concerns that this outside commission bill in the Senate would not get the 60 votes needed. Republicans, of course, blocked that bipartisan propose allergy.

She'd also considered having a existing House committee investigate this as well but her view according to sources who spoke to her was those are too unwieldy, that are big, there's probably going to be a smaller sub group of members. We'll see the more details, exactly, the scope, the time frame and the like who they may ask to come testify. But this will be Democratic-led and they'll have subpoena power, to schedule hearings here.

So, a lot will happen between now and the time we eventually get the report and it is unclear how the Republicans will react. Kevin McCarthy has not yet said he will name members to this. He most certainly will. But probably this will be a partisan fight that will last for months as Democrats push ahead on this probe, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Of course, it will, because they decided to deny the formation of a independent bipartisan commission. Of course, this is going to become a political gross fight on something that should be apolitical, getting to the bottom of what really happened on January 6.

Manu, great reporting as well. John, thank you so much. A lot going on at the White House that we'll keep a close eye on this hour.

Coming up for us, we'll take you back to the horrible situation truly that is playing out in south Florida. This condo building partially collapsing in Surfside. The Surfside mayor saying it looks like a bomb went off. Well, it surely does.

The latest on search and rescue operations as they race against time right now. That's next.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BOLDUAN: All right. Let's get back to the breaking news coming out of south Florida right now. Search and rescue efforts continue at this hour, ten hours after the first calls for help came in and were reported. After half of that building year looking at there, a 12- story condo building collapsed just north of Miami Beach. One person is confirmed dead. But dozens are missing still right now.

CNN justice received emergency dispatch audio from moments after the collapse. Let's listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need PD on the beach side. I have people coming into the back side. I need them to get everybody out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think you guys could expedite the resources that are needed right here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you bring all of the crews that you can find, bring it over here to the north side of the building.


BOLDUAN: And then there is this moment. There is no audio. But you don't need to hear it. One section of that condo building collapses and then the second section.

This surveillance video capturing the moment of the collapse. A woman who was rescued said it felt like an earthquake and someone else living nearby said the ocean front wing of the building collapsed like a pancake.

CNN's Leyla Santiago is live at the scene in Surfside, Florida. She's joining us once again.

Leyla, how is the bad weather that blew in very quickly, how is that impacting these efforts?

SANTIAGO: That is one added challenge for search and rescue teams that are right now in -- among the debris, trying to see what, who and what they find under this debris that has been left behind by this partial building collapse.

I can tell you that the latest information that is just coming in is Miami-Dade commissioner has told CNN that they have 51 individuals unaccounted for. Now, that number stems from reports to a hotline that the county set up. So we know, as you mentioned there are dozens who have not been accounted for.

We also know that they have 35 people that they rescued when this building collapsed. Two of which were pulled from under the debris. So the search continues, but there are big challenges. They have a building that is very much not stable and they are concerned they have rain that is coming in.

But it is a massive response. The mayor said that she feels confident that they have the equipment and the resources they need, that she is hopeful that they will be able to save any lives that they possibly can.

Let me tell you a little bit more about this building. This is a building that was built in the '80s. It has 130 units and according to the mayor, nearly half of them collapsed.