A partial building collapse in Miami caused a massive response early Thursday (local time) from Miami Dade Fire Rescue.

“Over 80 MDFR units including #TRT (Technical Rescue Teams) are on scene with assistance from municipal fire departments,” the tweet said.

There are fears that many people may be dead or remain trapped beneath the rubble at Champlain Towers South as a search-and-rescue operation by local authorities got underway.

According to the Miami Herald, the 12-storey condo tower, is an oceanside condo built in 1981 with more than 100 units.

Photos and video from the scene show that the collapse affected half the tower. Piles of rubble and debris surrounded the area just outside the building.

Miami Dade Fire Rescue is conducting search and rescue. Authorities had no word yet on casualties, or details of how many people lived in the building.

“We’re on the scene so it’s still very active,” said Sgt. Marian Cruz of Miami Dade Fire Rescue. “What I can tell you is the building is twelve floors. The entire back side of the building has collapsed.”

One witness told NBC News correspondent Sam Brock: “They are able to rescue some people but I heard some screams.”

Another witness told the Daily Mail that much of the building was occupied at the time of the collapse, which he estimated to have occurred at around 1.20am.

He told the publication: “It was the craziest thing I ever heard in my life.”

Police blocked nearby roads, and scores of fire and rescue vehicles, ambulances and police cars swarmed the area.

Officials have not yet commented on how many people are hurt, but a firefighter on the scene could be heard saying there are multiple casualties.

Photos and video from the scene show that the collapse affected half the tower. Piles of rubble and debris surrounded the area just outside the building. The department has yet to say what may have caused the collapse near 88th Street and Collins Avenue.

The building address is 8777 Collins Avenue, according to Surfside police. The sea-view condo 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 US$600,000 to US$700,000, police said.

The area is a mix of new and old apartments, houses, condominiums and hotels, with restaurants and stores serving an international combination of residents and tourists. The community provides a stark contrast from bustle and glitz of South Beach with a slower paced neighbourhood feel.

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