US President Joe Biden will visit the site of a deadly apartment building collapse in southern Florida later this week, the White House announced Tuesday, as rescuers scoured the wreckage in an increasingly desperate search for survivors.
A 12-story oceanfront condominium in Surfside, a neighborhood near Miami, pancaked into rubble in the early hours of June 24, with the official death toll of 12 expected to rise as hope dwindles for the nearly 150 people still unaccounted for.
The White House said the president would visit the site with First Lady Jill Biden on Thursday to ensure state and local officials have everything they need for the rescue effort.
"They want to thank the heroic first responders, search-and-rescue teams, and everyone who's been working tirelessly around the clock," said press secretary Jen Psaki.
The first couple also wants to "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," she said. Residents in the part of Champlain Towers South that remained intact reported being awakened around 1:30 am on June 24 by what sounded like cracks of thunder that shook their rooms.
Rescuers who arrived in the moments after the tower came down helped evacuate dozens of residents, and pulled one teenage boy alive from the rubble.
"It was like an earthquake," Janette Aguero, who escaped from the tower's 11th floor with her family, told AFP.
An October 2018 report released by city officials late Friday revealed fears of "major structural damage" in the complex, from the concrete slab under the pool deck to the columns and beams in the parking garage.