WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden will travel to Surfside, Florida, on Thursday to meet with first responders and family members of people missing a week after the collapse of a condo building.
The visit comes after a large section of the 12-story Champlain Towers South just outside of Miami crumbled around 1:30 a.m. last Thursday morning. Eighteen deaths have been confirmed so far, and 145 people remain unaccounted for.
Biden will receive a briefing from Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, Gov. Ron DeSantis — a Republican and ally of former President Donald Trump — as well as first responders and other local leaders.
The president will also thank search and rescue teams and will meet with families who have lost or are still missing loved ones. He will give remarks at 3:50 p.m. before returning to Washington.
The White House has said that Biden did not immediately visit the site out of concern that a presidential visit would disrupt rescue efforts.
Hundreds of workers — including rescue teams from Israel and Mexico — have been dispatched to the site to dig through the unstable mound of rubble in hopes of recovering more survivors. Authorities in Florida have described a grueling rescue process as workers attempt to move millions of pounds of concrete in the summer heat and as tropical rainstorms interrupt their efforts. One member of the rescue efforts was taken to the hospital Tuesday for dehydration.
During a visit Tuesday in Dallas, Jill Biden said that she and the president would be traveling to Florida to “comfort those families” and said that their hearts were breaking for those affected by the building collapse.
Biden has often turned to his own experiences with grief and loss to comfort others during times of national tragedy. Biden’s first wife and young daughter were killed in a car crash shortly after he was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1972. His son, Beau Biden, died in 2015 from brain cancer.