Exactly one week after the Champlain Towers South building collapsed, rescue workers early Thursday stopped worked amid concerns that the remaining structure could topple — and as South Florida braces for the possible arrival of a tropical storm later in the week.
The new challenges arose Thursday as President Joe Biden prepares to visit Surfside Thursday to meet with rescue workers, console grieving families and deliver remarks about what could be the nation’s deadliest building collapse.
So far, rescuers have recovered the bodies of 18 people, and say another 145 remain missing. Late Wednesday, Miami-Dade police identified two sisters, 10-year-old Lucia Guara and 4-year-old Emma Guara, as the latest victims in the condo collapse. Their parents also died.
At the Collins Avenue site of the Surfside condo collapse, the massive rescue effort — featuring specialized emergency workers from around the country and as far away as Mexico and Israel — had been continuing around the clock, through stifling heat and frequent rain storms. But work reportedly stopped early Thursday morning after authorities voiced new, urgent concerns that the remaining structure of the 12-story Champlain Towers South could topple.
After 2 a.m., multiple police officers and rescue personnel said they were hearing warnings the vacant building was shifting and the new instability could lead to another collapse. That led to clearing people from the area around the rescue operation, they said.
A crane that had been used to move debris all evening was still as 3 a.m. approached. A number of police officers said work on the collapse site had stopped and the area was cleared. “It’s on stand-by right now,” one officer said. The two buildings on either side of the Champlain South were evacuated shortly after the June 24 collapse.
President Biden is scheduled to arrive in South Florida Thursday morning along with the first lady. Residents and officials are hoping that Biden’s visit offers comfort to the small condo community just north of Miami Beach, and the frustrated rescue workers piecing through the gigantic heap of twisted concrete and metal.
The federal government has offered wide support, from helping victims relocate to dispatching scientists and experts to help determine what caused the 40-year-old building to suddenly collapse in the middle of the night, as residents and guests slept.
The U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology, which has been in Surfside since Sunday, said Wednesday that it will launch a full investigation into the building collapse, and what changes in laws, building codes and regulations could be made to prevent a similar tragedy. The agency that pushed safety reforms after investigating the collapse of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in 2001.