Bidens to Visit Site of Condo Building Collapse

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U.S.|The Bidens will visit the site of the Florida building collapse on Thursday.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/29/us/biden-florida-condo-collapse.html

Emergency workers searched Sunday for victims after the collapse of the Champlain Towers South condo in Surfside, Fla.
Credit...Erin Schaff/The New York Times
  • June 29, 2021, 11:57 a.m. ET

President Biden and Jill Biden, the first lady, will travel to Florida on Thursday to tour the site of collapsed Champlain Towers South condo complex and comfort the families of the 150 people listed as missing as the excruciating rescue and recovery effort drags on.

The Bidens will thank “search and rescue teams, and everyone who has been working tirelessly around the clock, and meet with the families who have been forced to endure this terrible tragedy, waiting in anguish and heartbreak for word of their loved ones to offer them comfort,” Jen Psaki, Mr. Biden’s press secretary, told reporters en route with the president to Wisconsin on Tuesday.

Ms. Psaki said the White House had planned the Florida trip in close coordination with officials in the Miami-Dade County area to ensure the trip would not divert “any critical local resources” from the recovery operation and to avoid “any negative operational impact.”

The families of the missing have endured a painstaking recovery process that has, so far, resulted in the retrieval 11 bodies from tons of pulverized, unstable rubble. Earlier, the White House press office later issued a one-line statement confirming the trip a week after the 13-story building suddenly gave way under its sleeping residents in the middle of the night.

On Monday, Ms. Psaki, said the president believed “there should be an investigation” into the collapse.

Mr. Biden, speaking briefly with reporters before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House en route to a trip to Wisconsin, also said that plans were in the works for the first lady to visit the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Mr. Biden spoke with Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida on Friday, pledging to provide federal help for the rescue, recovery and investigation of the collapse, which occurred after warnings about the structural integrity of the complex.

“We provided all the help they need,” Mr. Biden told reporters on Friday. “We sent the best people from FEMA down there. We’re going to stay with them with the disaster declaration we made, provide for everything from housing to, God forbid, whether there’s a need for a place for the bodies to be placed and everything in between.”

Word of Mr. Biden’s visit came as new details emerged about the cause of the collapse, and what appears to be a long pattern of missed warning signs about the building’s deteriorating condition.

Less than three months before the collapse, the president of the condominium association warned in a letter that the damage in the building had “gotten significantly worse” since it was highlighted in a 2018 inspection.

The letter was written to residents by Jean Wodnicki, president of the association’s board of directors, explaining why a list of extensive construction projects were worth a $15 million special assessment that residents were being asked to pay.

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