March 23, 2023

US President Joe Biden leaves Air Force One at Cointrin Airport as he speaks ahead of a meeting with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Geneva, Switzerland, on Jan.

Denis Balibouse | Reuters

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will travel to Surfside, Florida on Thursday to visit the site of a fatal condominium tower collapse.

“You want to thank the heroic first responders, the search and rescue teams and everyone who worked tirelessly around the clock,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Tuesday on the way to Wisconsin.

The President and First Lady will also meet with families “forced to endure this terrible tragedy, waiting in fear and heartbreak for the news of their loved ones and offering them comfort as the search and rescue efforts continue,” said Psaki.

In addition to the meetings, Biden wants to make sure state and local officials have all the federal funding they need, she added.

Search and rescue operations continued at the site north of Miami Beach on Tuesday, six days after the 12-story Champlain Towers South condominium tower suddenly collapsed early Thursday morning.

As of Tuesday, 11 people had been confirmed dead and 150 were missing, according to local officials.

The White House previously said Biden would wait to visit Surfside until he was sure the security and logistics accompanying a president’s visit would not disrupt ongoing search, rescue and recovery efforts.

Thursday’s visit “will be closely coordinated with local officials to ensure that critical local resources are not distracted from search and rescue operations or negatively impacting operations,” said Psaki.

In the last few days there have been indications that the 40-year-old apartment building was already showing considerable structural damage in 2018.

Search and rescue workers remove a stretcher from the rubble of the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South Condo building on June 28, 2021 in Surfside, Florida.

Joe Raedle | Getty Images

Biden is supporting a federal investigation into the cause of the building collapse, Psaki said this week. The federal government wants to play “every constructive role to get to the bottom of the matter and to prevent it in the future,” she added.

On Tuesday, Psaki said the National Institute of Standards and Technology was the agency empowered to conduct federal investigations into building collapses. Six scientists from NIST were in Surfside on Tuesday, she said.

In addition to the NIST scientists, teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Agency and the FBI were at the site of the collapse.