Soccer game kept woman away from Florida condo wing that collapsed

SURFSIDE, Florida (AP) — A soccer game may have saved Patricia Avilez’s life.

Avilez’s brother-in-law lives in a condo located in the wing of a 12-story beachfront condo building that collapsed in a town outside Miami early Thursday, killing at least one person.

When the brother-in-law isn’t there, Avilez routinely stops by to pick up the mail and make sure everything in the condo is in order.

“Last night I was thinking, “Let me go over there to sleep overnight,” she said. “I was looking at the soccer game and I changed my mind and I stayed home.”

She said she woke up at 5:30 a.m. Thursday and headed over to the apartment. On the way, she heard on the radio about the collapse.

“And then I came here and it’s gone,” she said. “Everything is disaster.”

Rescuers have pulled 35 people from the building and were continuing to look for more, Raide Jadallah, assistant fire chief of operations for Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, said at a news conference.

The mayor of Surfside, a US town of 6,000 with a significant Jewish population, warned during a news conference that the building manager told him the tower was quite full and the death toll was likely to rise.

Jewish emergency response services were also taking part in the rescue efforts.

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.

Nearly half of Surfside’s residents are Orthodox Jews, many associated with the Hasidic Chabad Lubavitch 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. Some listed names of people understood to be missing.

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

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