Bidens visit Florida as confirmed death toll in Surfside building collapse rises to 18

July 2, 2021

U.S. President Joe Biden and first lady Dr. Jill Biden visited Surfside, Florida, on July 1, where search and rescue operations were paused overnight—due to possible danger of a further cave-in at the site of a partially collapsed condominium building, VOA News reports.

The couple arrived at nearby Miami International Airport aboard Air Force One after leaving the White House early Thursday. At a news conference on the same morning, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava explained the decision to halt search and rescue efforts.

“We were forced to halt operations on the collapse in the early hours of the morning due to structural concerns about the standing structure. We’re doing everything that we can to ensure the safety of our first responders is paramount and to continue our search and rescue operations as soon as it is safe to do so,” Levine Cava said. 

Miami-Dade County Fire Chief Alan Cominsky highlighted the dangerous nature of the day-and-night effort to try to find someone who may still be alive underneath the rubble and explained the need to suspend search and rescue efforts.

“On the south side of the structure, near the north and south corners of the building, it could cause additional failure to the building,” he said at the Thursday news conference.

Cominsky said Wednesday teams were using search dogs, video, and sonar—and. in particular, were looking for signs of voids within the rubble where a person might be found.

Local officials said late Wednesday the number of dead from the collapse had risen to 18, including two children. Levine Cava announced the latest toll in a series of tweets late Wednesday, including that 145 people remained unaccounted for.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that the President and First Lady would be meeting with family members “who have been forced to endure this terrible tragedy,” as well as thanking first responders and rescue teams.

When asked if the Bidens would go to the building site itself, Psaki said those details were not yet decided, but that the president had stressed that every part of his visit needs to be coordinated with officials on the ground.

“There is still an ongoing search and rescue effort on the ground, and we want to ensure we’re not doing anything to pull away from those resources,” she told reporters at a Wednesday briefing.

Research contact: @VOANews


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