"You don't see buildings falling down in America", Burkett, stunned, told CNN Thursday morning, "and here we had a building literally fall down".
It was not immediately known how many people were injured in Surfside, as the search and rescue effort continued with crews from across Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Burkett suggests there may be more fatalities.
"It's hard to imagine how this could have happened", Burkett said. "That is heartbreaking because it doesn't mean to me that we are going to be as successful as we wanted to be in finding people alive". They returned upstairs, screamed for help and were eventually brought to safety by firefighters using a cherry-picker.
"When the dust cleared, the back two-thirds of the building was gone, it was down to the ground".More news: Russian Federation says it fired warning shots at United Kingdom ship
It is unclear how many people were inside the building at the time. "It felt like an natural disaster", he told the Miami Herald newspaper, tearing up as his wife called again to say she was being evacuated from the complex.
Photos and video from the scene show the collapse affected half the tower. Teams of firefighters walked through the rubble, picking up survivors and carrying them from the wreckage. He said she called him later and said rescuers were bringing her down.
A building has partially collapsed in Miami early in the morning on June 24, 2021, and has prompted Miami-Dade Fire Rescue to send 80 units to respond to the scene, according to a tweet from Miami-Dade Fire Rescue.
Appearing on NBC's "Today" show, Burkett said that it looked "like a bomb went off, but we're pretty sure a bomb didn't go off".More news: Covid-19: NI records 178 new cases and no further deaths
"I was born here and buildings just don't fall down, never". Police are also assisting with the rescue operation.
Barry Cohen, a former vice mayor of Surfside who lives in the building, said he heard loud noises in the middle of the night.
The sea-view condominium development was built in 1981 in the southeast corner of Surfside, on the beach. It had a few two-bedroom units now on the market, with asking prices of $600,000 to $700,000.
The area is a mix of new and old apartments, houses, condominiums and hotels, with restaurants and stores serving an global combination of residents and tourists.More news: Border Closure between USA and Canada extended
Assistant Fire Chief of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Raide Jadallah said that rescuers are moving in "heavy equipment" and working to support the remaining structure of the building. The community provides a stark contrast from bustle and glitz of South Beach with a slower paced neighbourhood feel.