We Meet Up ‘: Biden Meets DeSantis, Families Miss Loved Ones in Fatal Florida Condo Collapse

  • Biden: “The one order I gave the federal folks was no bureaucracy, just cut through…”
  • In an unannounced stop, Joe and Jill Biden prayed at a memorial wall for missing family members.
  • Biden, with the first lady by his side, met with roughly 50 first responders.

WASHINGTON – One week after a 12-story condo building collapsed near Miami, Florida, President Joe Biden praised how the United States has come together to deal with the disaster while also grieving with families who still have loved ones missing.

“They’re going through hell,” Biden said of the families he met with who, either escaped the building or still have loved ones missing. “Jill and I wanted them to know that we’re with them. That the country is with them. Our message today is that we’re here for you, as one nation.”

The visit came as rescue efforts were halted early Thursday due to concerns over the stability of a condo section still standing a week after the building collapsed outside Miami. Rescue efforts restarted Thursday evening. Eighteen people are dead and dozens are missing as a result of the collapse. During Biden’s visit, he announced several efforts the federal government is making to help the community of Surfside, Florida, where the collapsed condo building is located.

Biden announced that the federal government is covering 100% of the costs to the county and state for the first 30 days of the building collapse search and rescue operation. He noted that the Federal Emergency Management Agency will also provide temporary housing for survivors. In addition, he said he ordered the State Department to expedite visas for family members from other countries who had loved ones in the condo.

Biden noted that families are “realistic” about the status of their family members.

“I think they’re very realistic,” about recovery efforts, Biden said. “But I don’t think that in any way suggests that we should stop. We should move on, continue to try to recover the bodies.”

Throughout his trip, he highlighted how the local, state and federal government has worked “in tandem” to address the disaster, putting aside politics.

“I think my colleagues will tell you we cut through the bureaucracy,” Biden said during remarks after meeting with families. “The one order I gave the federal folks was no bureaucracy, just cut through and get to whatever they need.”

Biden spent much of the day speaking with Republican Gov. Ron DeSantisand Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. Several members of //the state’s congressional delegation, Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz, were also in attendance.

In an unannounced stop, Biden and the First Lady prayed at a memorial wall for missing family members. The First Lady laid a bouquet of white roses. The two held hands as they prayed, as Biden held his head down. The president made a sign of the cross before turning away and walking back to the motorcade.

In remarks ahead of a roundtable with officials, Levine Cava said the collaboration among local, state and federal government is bringing hope to the community.

“This is an unprecedented, devastating disaster unlike anyone has ever seen,” Levine Cava said. “It’s shocked the world, and the fact that we’ve all come together is what gives us hope, is what gives us strength and inspiration.”

DeSantis in his remarks noted that there has been “no bureaucracy,” when working with the federal government, saying “we’re literally getting requests routed from local to state to federal in no time and the approvals happening.”

“There will be no bureaucracy,” Biden responded.

What we know:Bodies of two children, ages 4 and 10, found in rubble of collapsed building; death toll rises to 18

Biden’s briefing came after Levine Cava announced in a news conference Thursday morning that search-and-rescue operations have been halted because of structural concerns with the building.

Biden, with the first lady by his side, met with roughly 50 first responders in a ballroom at the St. Regis following the roundtable meeting.

“I just wanted to come down and say thanks,” Biden told the first responders. “What you’re doing now is just hard as hell to deal with, even psychologically, to deal with. And I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

He went on to shake hands with the battalion chief leading the response, which was met with applause.

Biden also met with family members of those who lived in the condo for the next couple of hours. That meeting was closed to the press. During his meeting with families whose loved ones have died or are still missing, Biden gave brief remarks, followed by other local and state officials, including DeSantis and Levine Cava, according to the pool report. Biden stayed in the meeting until everyone had a chance to speak with him.

DeSantis and Biden put politics aside

With his palm laid over DeSantis’ hands, Biden praised the bipartisanship of the federal, state and local governments throughout the tragedy.

“You know what’s good about this?” Biden said. “It lets the nation know we can cooperate. That’s really important.”

DeSantis, a vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump, thanked Biden for recognizing “the severity of this tragedy from day one.”

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