President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden are visiting Surfside, Florida, on Thursday, a week after a towering condo building in the town came. Eighteen people are confirmed dead in the tragedy and more than 140 are unaccounted for.
Mr. Biden and Jill are first receiving a command briefing from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and other officials. They will later thank first responders and search and rescue teams and meet families impacted by the collapse before Mr. Biden delivers remarks in Miami.
“This is life and death,” Mr. Biden said at the start of the briefing, noting the strong cooperation in spite of partisan differences.
Mr. Biden said he believes the federal government can pick up the costs related to the disaster for the first 30 days.
Work at the site of the condo building collapse was halted early Thursday due to concerns about the part of the structure that is still standing, officials announced at a press conference. Operations halted shortly after 2 a.m.
Residents who escaped the collapse are sharing chilling stories.
Raysa Rodriguez left a voicemail on her brother’s phone as she made her way out of the building. “Anybody over there? Hello?” she said. “Oh my God! What the hell? The whole entire building is gone!”
Iliana Monteagudo said a loud noise woke her from her sleep. She started to run after she saw a crack snaking down her living room wall. “I start going down fast and I hear a crack, crack, crack,” she said.
Her neighbor, Sara Nir, lived on the ground floor and went outside when she heard a loud bang. That’s when she saw the building’s underground garage collapse.
“We ran out of the building,” she said. “And then another big boom. Then we didn’t see anything. It was suddenly quiet after the big boom and with white clouds all over.”
Officials on Wednesday announced that thewere found in the rubble. They were sisters, 4 and 10 years old.