A day after President Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden thanked first responders and visited families affected by the Surfside condo collapse, search and rescue operations continued as experts work to find out the cause of the unexpected catastrophe.
Rescue operations resume at Surfside
After a more than 14-hour cease in operations due to structural concerns, search and rescue efforts resumed at about 4:45 p.m. Thursday, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said. Officials said safety mitigation measures were in place and the teams would be searching three of nine grids.
The structural integrity of a section of the building still standing was in question and caused rescue teams to cease operating at about 2:15 a.m. Thursday. Miami-Dade County’s mayor said engineers are working on a way to potentially demolish the remaining portion of the building, while allowing for the search to continue.
State Fire Marshall Jimmy Patronis said engineers were researching ways to safely bring the remaining portion of the building down. Complicating the efforts is the fact that the site is hemmed in by the pile of the rubble to the east, buildings to the north and south, and Collins Avenue, the main beachfront road to the west. Across Collins Avenue is a park and tennis center. [Read more]
Extensive concrete damage discovered last fall, yet repair efforts were suspended
In a summary of work performed in October by Morabito Consultants, the company reported extensive concrete deterioration and corrosion of reinforcement at Champlain Towers South. It had discovered several issues, including potentially deep deterioration of concrete near the pool area.
Full restoration and repair work “could not be performed” because the pool “was to remain in service for the duration of the work” and because the necessary aggressive excavation of concrete at the pool “could affect the stability of the remaining adjacent concrete constructions.”
Experts caution that it’s unlikely the findings in the report reveal the root cause of the building collapse, which remains unknown. However, documents obtained exclusively by USA TODAY reveal new clues about the building’s dramatic state of disrepair, which may have been one of the causes of the collapse that killed 18 people and left more than 140 still unaccounted for as of Thursday afternoon. [Read more]
Will Tropical Storm Elsa affect search and rescue efforts?
Officials said they are closely monitoring Tropical Storm Elsa as they continue to respond to the collapse site. They said they are aware that the county faces the risk of heavy rainfall and strong winds from Elsa from Sunday night into Monday morning.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said the National Weather Service will be on site to Friday to brief the search teams on Elsa.
Possible severe weather could further delay the search-and-rescue efforts, Kevin Guthrie of the Florida Division of Emergency Management said Wednesday.
Rescuers were already coping with near-daily thunderstorms and lightning, which forced suspensions of rescue efforts.
Elsa’s latest path and predicted track
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President Biden’s visit
President Joe Biden, reprising his role as comforter-in-chief, highlighted Thursday the “life and death” situation that has brought together all levels of the government as he visits the south Florida community reeling from the collapse of a 12-story condo building that left 18 people dead and more than 140 missing.
“We’ve come together,” Biden said, as Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis sat to the right of the president, and Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava sat to the left. Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott sat across from the president. “This is life and death.”
Biden, with the first lady by his side, met with roughly 50 first responders in a ballroom at the St. Regis and spent nearly three hours meeting privately with the fam.
“They’re going through hell,” he said. “Jill and I wanted them to know that we’re with them. That the country is with them. Our message today is that we’re here for you, as one nation.” Get the full story here.
Surfside:Rescue resumes as President Biden visits, tropical storm looms
What’s the latest with the building collapse in Surfside, Florida?
Kevin Guthrie, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said Thursday night that Florida will receive $20.5 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in support of the operations at the collapse site.
They will also receive an additional $4 to $5 million to help cover the costs associated with the teams and logistical resources after President Biden pledged to cover the first 30 days 100%.
How many victims?
As of Thursday, the number of people who died in the Surfside condo collapse remained at 18 with more than 140 people still unaccounted for.
Read about those who died here.
Assisting families of the victims
Edith Shiro, a psychologist with Cadena Foundation, has been working with the families of the victims. She was in the room when President Biden spoke with ten tables full of family members.
CADENA assists during disasters with humanitarian aid among other pursuits.
“Their loved ones back, that’s what they need. They need answers,” Shiro said of the family members and survivors.
Hope has come and gone for them.
“It’s really going in waves. Some families, the first day they were hopeless and then they started to get hopeful. Some families started out with so much help and now they’re not helpful at all…Some people are still in shock,” Shiro told USA Today outside of the St. Regis on Thursday afternoon.
Shiro said President Biden shared some of his own grief over his lost loved ones with the families.
“He approached each family personally…he was saying how people with suffering, there are no words,” Shiro said. “He was saying that the grief stages are different for each person and we should be patient with each family member.”
Shiro wants the world to know something about these waiting families.
“They’re suspended in this biggest loss which is the biggest loss of all because there’s no closure, there’s no answers, there’s nothing to hold onto,” Shiro said. “And until they get out of that stage they’re not going to begin to start their grieving and their morning and start to recover or heal in some way.”
When will we know what caused Surfside condo to collapse?
In the coming months, forensic engineers will focus on clues hidden within tangled heaps of rubble to solve a mystery: Exactly why did a 12-story condominium tower tragically collapse in Surfside?
“I have probably 60 or 70 possible thoughts. I have to eliminate them one at a time, research them one at a time, and then look at them in combination to try to make an understanding of it,” said Allyn Kilsheimer, a structural engineer who has been hired by the town of Surfside to study the disaster.
“When it’s a fire, a plane, a bomb, I know what is the trigger. I don’t know what the trigger is here,” Kilsheimer said.
Read more here:Why did the building fall in Surfside? Investigation could take years
How are businesses in Surfside doing?
There has been “a lot less” business at The Greek Place since the building collapse, according to employee Pamela Skordilis. The small, family-owned restaurant is just a few minutes walk from the St. Regis Hotel where President Biden has been for most of the day Thursday.
“The way they blocked the street here on 96th Street, if they would have just gone two more blocks south … that would have really helped business. At least cars could have gone through the business district,” Skordilis said.
But the day of Biden’s visit to Surfside, business inexplicably picked up.
“It’s a miracle,” she told USA TODAY. “And of course we’re short-staffed today because of having no business.”
You can help:How to help victims of Surfside devastation, things to know
Contributing: Ginny Beagan, USA TODAY Network-Florida; RIck Neale, FLORIDA TODAY; Jesse Mendoza, Herald-Tribune