US President Joe Biden visited Florida on Thursday to comfort the families of those killed and missing in last week’s condominium collapse, as the search-and-rescue operation was temporarily suspended due to concerns about the stability of the remaining structure.
Biden, whose personal experience with tragedy has marked his political career, was set to reprise the role of “consoler-in-chief” a week after the 12-story building partially caved in as residents slept.
The confirmed death toll remained at 18, after the discovery of six more bodies in the ruins of the Champlain Towers South condo, including two children, aged 4 and 10. Another 145 people are missing and feared trapped in the rubble, with hopes of finding any survivors dimming with each passing day.
After arriving in Miami, Biden attended a briefing with local officials, including Governor Ron DeSantis, who is widely seen as a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2024.
Biden told them he would deliver “whatever you need” and said he expected the federal government would cover the full costs for the county and state.
“We’re not going anywhere,” he said. “This is life or death.”
Workers at the site were instructed to stop just after 2 am on Thursday when movement in the debris raised concerns that the part of the building still standing could collapse, officials said.
“The search-and-rescue operation will continue as soon as itis safe to do so,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said at a news briefing. Officials said they were unsure when that would happen.