President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden to travel to the catastrophe in Surfside on Thursday

By: - June 29, 2021 11:15 am

The disaster scene in Surfside. Credit: Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department

Update: The number of dead in the building collapse has risen to 12, with 125 residents accounted for and 149 not accounted for, Miami Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said during an evening news conference.

The White House has announced that the President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will travel to Surfside in South Florida on Thursday, where a condo building collapsed, killing at least 11 people in the rubble.

The trip on July 1 will be “pooled” press, meaning not all reporters will attend but information will be provided to journalists.

The White House had indicated on Monday that the administration wanted to be cautious about a site visit lest the president and his entourage distract from search and recovery efforts.

However, while boarding Marine One on Tuesday Biden replied when asked whether he would go to Florida, “Yes, I hope so.”

Asked when, Biden said: “As soon as we can. Maybe as early as Thursday.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki provided details later in the day.

“They want to thank the heroic first responders, 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 as search-and- rescue efforts continue,” Psaki said of the Bidens.

“And they want to make sure that state and local officials have the resources and support they need under the emergency declaration approved by the president for Miami-Dade, Fla. The visit is being, of course, closely coordinated with officials on the ground to ensure it does not draw any critical local resources from the ongoing search-and-rescue operations or have any negative operational impact,” she said.

The exact itinerary is not settled yet, Psaki added.

Miami Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava welcomed news of the president’s visit.

“He’s going to spend time with the families who are affected and with our first responders. We’ve had his support since he called me Day 1 in the morning — and this is so critical that we do have our federal support,” Cava said.

Psaki gave additional information about an investigation.

“The National Institute of Standards and Technology — NIST — is authorized to investigate building failures. Their authorities are modeled after those of the National Transportation Safety Board — the NTSB — for investigating transportation accidents,” Psaki said.

Six scientists and engineers from that agency are in South Florida collecting information about the collapse, she said, “to learn how we can help protect infrastructure across the country.”

Note: This report has been updated to include information from a White House press briefing. Deputy Editor Michael Moline and staff in the States Newsroom Washington bureau contributed to this report.

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Diane Rado
Diane Rado

Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.