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Search and rescue efforts resume in Miami condo building collapse

Efforts at the site had been paused after officials said that the vacant, still-standing part of the building was shifting and might also flatten.
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A week after the partial collapse of a Miami Beach-area condo building, search and rescue crews resumed their work after concerns early Thursday that the other half of the building might come down halted the efforts.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said operations were suspended over "concerns about the standing structure." She said the families of those missing were informed, and the "search and rescue operation will continue as soon as it is safe to do so."

Fire Chief Alan R. Cominsky said "slight movement in the concrete floor slabs near north and south corner of the building that could cause additional failure of the building moving in the debris pile" forced the temporary stop at 2:11 a.m.

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett confirmed by late Thursday afternoon that the efforts were back on in "full power" after the work stoppage.

South Florida could also be hit with Tropical Storm Elsa, which was churning in the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday and could interfere with search efforts. Crews have grappled with bad weather since work began on the site shortly after the collapse around 1:30 a.m. June 24.

But Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday that some of resources working round the clock at Champlain Towers South in Surfside may have to be diverted if storms hit Florida. "Tis the season and you’ve got to be ready,” he said.

Thursday also marks a week since a survivor has been discovered.

On Wednesday, the bodies of two children, ages 10 and 4, were found at the site, bringing the confirmed death toll to 18.

"Any loss of life, especially given the unexpected, unprecedented nature of this event, is a tragedy,” Levine Cava said. "But the loss of our children is too great to bear."

The number of unaccounted for people stands at 145.

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden traveled to Surfside on Thursday to meet with first responders and family members of those still missing.

At a command briefing with first responders and local officials Thursday morning, Biden promised the support of the federal government and urged those at the table to "tell me what you need."

Sitting between Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican and close ally of former President Donald Trump, and Levine Cava, a Democrat, Biden said that "we're letting the nation know that we can cooperate."

The president 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.

Levine Cava said Thursday morning that the president's visit would have "no impact on what happens on this site."

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, which investigated in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, announced Wednesday that "it would launch a full technical investigation" into the collapse.

A team has been at the site for days and determined that the collapse met the criteria for an in-depth federal investigation.

"There are millions of high-rise condominium units in Florida alone, many of them near the ocean or aging," the agency said in a statement. "While a NIST investigation is intended to identify the cause of the Champlain Towers South collapse, it could also uncover potential issues for other similar buildings nearby and throughout the nation."

The investigation does not have a set timeline and is expected to take years to complete.

Miami's top prosecutor said Tuesday she will ask a grand jury to investigate the collapse in hopes to get answers sooner.

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said she "will not do anything to jeopardize" the agency's investigation.

"It is painstaking and complicated work," she said. "However, this is a matter of extreme public importance, and as the state attorney elected to keep this community safe, I will not wait."