Bidens visiting Surfside condo collapse site, will meet with families of those missing
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President Biden is meeting with officials in Florida Thursday as search and rescue efforts at the Champlain Towers South condo building collapse site have been temporarily halted over structural concerns, with 18 confirmed dead and 145 still unaccounted for.
Biden and first lady Jill Biden are first meeting with Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and other local officials in Surfside.
They then will visit first responders and search and rescue teams before meeting with the families of those still awaiting word on the status of their loved ones.
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden board Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., on Thursday. (AP)
Mayor Levine Cava told reporters ahead of her meeting with Biden Thursday that search and rescue efforts at the condo collapse site are on pause over "concerns about the standing structure."
"As many of you have already seen we were forced to halt operations on the collapse in the early hours of the morning due to structural concerns about the standing structure," she said. "We are doing everything we can to ensure that the safety of the first responders is paramount and to continue our search and rescue operation as soon as it is safe to do so."
Miami-Dade Police Director Freddy Ramirez said he hopes Biden’s visit will be a morale booster for the entire community.
"We’ve had several challenges from weather, sorrow, pain. And I think that the president coming will bring some unity here for our community, support, like our governor, our mayor, all of us together," he said, according to the Associated Press.
Search and rescue personnel work atop the rubble at the Champlain Towers South condo building on Wednesday. (AP)
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the president and first lady also want to make sure that state and local officials have the resources and support they need under an emergency declaration approved by Biden for Miami-Dade.
She emphasized Wednesday that the White House is being careful to coordinate with officials on the ground to ensure that Biden’s visit doesn’t do anything to "pull away" from the ongoing search and rescue effort.
State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis said he hopes to convey to Biden the need for mental health resources for rescue workers who may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
"These guys are so blindly focused on the mission of saving lives, and unfortunately they see things they can’t unsee," Patronis said.
"We want to make sure that when they ultimately do go home, that we’re giving them the strength … to be able to get back to work without fear of nightmares and challenges," he added.
Among the remains found Wednesday were those of a mother and her two young daughters, a loss that Mayor Levine Cava called "too great to bear."
Miami-Dade police identified the children as 10-year-old Lucia Guara and 4-year-old Emma Guara, and their mother as 42-year-old Anaely Rodriguez. The remains of their father, Marcus Guara, 52, were pulled from the rubble Saturday and identified Monday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.