Miami, Jul 1 (EFE).- President Joe Biden and his wife Jill arrived Thursday in Miami, where they are scheduled to meet with rescue workers, survivors and relatives of the known victims and the missing in the partial collapse of a condo building in Surfside.
It has not yet been confirmed whether or not Biden and the first lady will visit the actual site of the worst such tragedy to occur in Florida in decades, with at least 18 people known to be dead and 145 missing or unaccounted for.
Air Force One landed about 9:30 am at Miami International Airport. There was no official welcome for the Bidens and the first couple immediately were taken by automobile to Surfside, a municipality in the Miami metro area.
The first item on the president’s agenda was to meet with Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, who on Thursday morning offered her regular press conference along with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis before the Bidens arrived at Surfside.
Biden said Thursday at his meeting with state and local officials that the federal government has “the power to pick up 100 percent of the cost” of the search and cleanup operations incurred by the state of Florida and Miami-Dade County for dealing with the situation created by the building collapse.
Saying that he wants to assume 100 percent of the costs in the first 30 days after the tragedy, Biden met with Levine Cava, DeSantis, other local authorities and the leaders of the search and rescue operations at a hotel in Bal Harbour, a municipality near Surfside.
“This is life and death,” said the president at the briefing on the tragedy and the rescue and recovery efforts so far. “We can do it, just the simple act of everyone doing what needs to be done, makes a difference.”
“You all know it,” Biden told state and local officials, “because a lot of you have been through it as well. There’s gonna be a lot of pain and anxiety and suffering and even the need for psychological help in the days and months that follow. And so, we’re not going anywhere.”
Earlier, at her own morning press conference, Levine Cava announced that on Thursday morning emergency workers had to halt their operations at the collapse site due to concerns about the stability of part of the building that still remains standing, but she said that search and recovery efforts will continue as soon as that problem is resolved.
She said that the Bidens’ visit will have no impact on the search efforts, which will continue once engineers determine that that can occur without risk to the rescue teams.
Fire chief Alan Cominsky confirmed that “movement” was registered in a portion of the still-standing structure about 2 am and structural engineers are determining what to do about that.
Miami-Dade police chief Freddy Ramirez, upon thanking the Bidens in advance for their pending visit on Wednesday, said that their presence would bring “unity to our community,” and that the president was coming to Surfside to provide support and not to interrupt what rescue workers were doing.
At 1:30 am on June 24, a portion of the 12-story Champlain Towers condo complex collapsed, destroying 55 of the complex’s 136 apartments, an unknown number of which were occupied at the time.
Among the survivors, the dead and the missing in the building collapse are people from Argentina, Cuba, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Venezuela and Israel.