July 25, 2021

Joe and Jill Biden come to bring “comfort”

A week after the building called Champlain Towers South, a 12-story residential building in Surfside, suburb of Miami, collapsed, Joe and Jill Biden arrived in Florida on Thursday 1is July, to bring a message of comfort.

While the official death toll is 18 dead and 140 people missing, the president, who has made empathy a marker of his tenure, intends to reserve most of his time for meetings with rescue teams, then with relatives of victims or missing persons.

The president’s agenda provides for three hours of interviews with families. “My heart is bleeding for the people of Surfside”, the president tweeted on Saturday, promising all federal assistance required. During this visit, Joe Biden wants above all “To bring comfort”, Karine Jean-Pierre, her spokesperson, told journalists on board Air Force One. The president also wants to send a “Message of unity”, arguing that the federal state and local authorities have joined forces in the face of the tragedy, she added.

Suspension of rescue operations

Mr. Biden spoke to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava about the situation. The latter praised the efforts made to overcome partisan divisions in this period of “Unprecedented disaster” Mr DeSantis, a potential Republican candidate for the 2024 presidential election, told Mr Biden that “The cooperation was great” with the federal administration. No information was immediately available on a possible visit by the presidential couple to the site of the tragedy, where relief operations were suspended at dawn.

The official death toll from a building collapse in Surfside, a suburb of Miami, is 18 dead and 140 missing.

More than 1,400 tonnes of concrete have already been excavated, Governor Ron DeSantis said Thursday. “We were forced to stop operations (…) at dawn due to concerns” concerning the part of the building still standing after the collapse, Daniella Levine Cava told a press conference. She assured that Joe Biden’s visit would not have “No impact” on the desperate quest for survivors, which will resume as soon as ” Security “ rescue teams would be provided.

Most of the twelve-story building collapsed on June 24 at around 1:20 a.m. in a cloud of dust, one of the most serious urban disasters in US history.

Only one survivor, a teenager, was pulled from the rubble in the early hours of relief operations. Since then, each hour that passes dispels a little more the hope of a miracle. Among those missing are dozens of Latin Americans from Argentina, Colombia, Paraguay, Chile and Uruguay.

If the hypothesis of a failure in the maintenance of the building has been raised, no clear answer has been given, and the bodies are extracted from the rubble in droppings, over slow and complex searches.

As early as 2018, a report on the condition of the building noted “Major structural damage”, as well as « fissures » in the basement of the building, according to documents released by the Town of Surfside. The publication on Tuesday of a letter dated April from the president of the assembly of co-owners, alarmed by the state of the building, also fueled the debate as to whether the disaster could have been avoided.

Read also Building collapse in Florida: in letter, residents worried about the dilapidated building

Le Monde with AFP and AP