Biden Meets With Florida Families as Rescue Pauses

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The president said chances were fading that anyone other would beryllium recovered live nether the wide of factual and alloy near by a collapsed condominium.

President Biden and the archetypal  lady, Jill Biden, astatine  a makeshift memorial successful  Surfside, Fla., connected  Thursday.
Credit...Tom Brenner for The New York Times

July 1, 2021

SURFSIDE, Fla. — President Biden spent 3 hours Thursday consoling the families of those who died oregon were inactive missing nether the rubble of a collapsed condominium building adjacent Miami Beach, saying “the waiting is unbearable” for agonized relatives arsenic crews halted a hopeless hunt for overmuch of the time retired of interest that the remainder of the analyzable could besides fall.

In remarks aft the backstage meeting, which was held successful a edifice ballroom, Mr. Biden said the families were “going done hell.” Many person been waiting for much than a week for connection astir whether anyone mightiness inactive beryllium live nether the factual and steel.

“I sat with 1 pistillate who had conscionable mislaid her hubby and her small babe boy, didn’t cognize what to do,” the president said. “I sat with different household that mislaid astir the full family, cousins, brothers, sisters. And to ticker them, and they’re praying and pleading and God fto determination beryllium a miracle.”

For Mr. Biden, confronting the largest nationalist calamity since helium took bureau was analyzable by the information that helium could not eulogize those who were inactive unaccounted for, oregon clasp retired overmuch anticipation for the missing. “They cognize that the chances are, arsenic each time goes by, diminished slightly,” the president said. “But astatine a minimum, astatine a minimum, they privation to retrieve the bodies. They privation to retrieve the bodies.”

Eighteen radical are known to person died successful the illness of Champlain Towers South, and arsenic galore arsenic 145 radical stay missing, numbers th­at person remained unchanged since Wednesday.

Mr. Biden said that galore of the household members asked what helium called “basic heart-wrenching” questions: Would they beryllium capable to retrieve the bodies of their loved ones truthful they could hide them? If not, what should they do?

He added that the families understood the determination to intermission the hunt connected Thursday, fixed the risks to the rescue teams.

The president arrived successful Florida hours aft rescue workers were pulled disconnected the debris heap amid interest that the remainder of the gathering mightiness fall. Although the hunt resumed hours later, the hold was different setback for a hunt that for days had proceeded dilatory and without hopeful news.

“They’re moving successful a very, precise unsafe environment,” said Alan R. Cominsky, the main of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, who described a ample hanging file that threatened to destabilize the remaining structure, arsenic good arsenic question successful factual slabs and the debris pile, that prompted the intermission successful rescue work. “I couldn’t pinpoint it to 1 circumstantial incident.”

The northeast information of the building, facing the beach, fell to the crushed past week, portion different units were near standing. But aft days of intensive searches, the country appeared quiescent for overmuch of Thursday, with cranes frozen supra the rubble.

“It’s a small heartbreaking, a small overwhelming,” said Pablo Rodriguez, whose mother, Elena Blasser, 64, and grandmother, Elena Chavez, 88, were among the missing. “I recognize — I’ve seen the site. I recognize however horrific the demolition is, but astatine the aforesaid time, my parent and grandma are underneath each of that.”

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Search-and-rescue workers this week continuing to look   for the unaccounted victims from Champlain Tower South. Work was temporarily halted connected  Thursday amid interest  that the remainder  of the gathering  mightiness  fall.
Credit...Maria Alejandra Cardona for The New York Times

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue officials said connected Twitter that the determination to resume searching was made aft consulting with structural engineers. Rescue workers returned to the debris heap astatine astir 4:45 p.m., Mayor Daniella Levine Cava of Miami-Dade County said.

“Finding missing loved ones continues to beryllium astatine the forefront of our operations,” the fire department’s post said. Local officials are besides monitoring the attack of Tropical Storm Elsa, adjacent arsenic they cautioned its way was inactive unclear.

Even earlier the pause, the hunt had progressed slowly. The bodies of 2 sisters were pulled from the rubble connected Wednesday arsenic the decease toll roseate to 18. Lucia Guara, 10, and her sister, Emma Guara, 4, were among 4 victims the authorities identified Wednesday evening, on with their mother, Anaely Rodriguez, 42. Rescue workers besides recovered the assemblage of Andreas Giannitsopoulos, 21. On Thursday evening, the authorities announced the recognition of different unfortunate recovered connected Wednesday, Magaly Elena Delgado, 80.

The president praised exigency workers and section and authorities officials, saying that their practice was singular — and helium utilized the infinitesimal to observe a uncommon lawsuit of bipartisanship. Mr. Biden praised Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, 1 of his harshest critics. Mr. DeSantis returned the compliment, saying that Mr. Biden had “recognized the severity of this calamity from Day 1.” Mr. Biden said the national authorities would screen the full outgo of the archetypal 30 days of the recovery.

He said helium had told the families that “we’re present for you arsenic 1 nation.” Later, helium and the archetypal lady, Jill Biden, went to a memorial partition and looked astatine pictures of immoderate of the victims and notes near for them — a scene reminiscent of New York astir 20 years ago, aft the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks brought down the World Trade Center. The makeshift memorial is adjacent the illness site, and the Bidens near a bouquet of achromatic flowers, underneath a motion christening the memorial arsenic the “Surfside Wall of Hope & Memorial.”

Battered by blistering vigor and relentless storms, the memorial was adorned with flowers, missing-person posters, supplication candles and notes of encouragement for the families and rescue crews. Emergency aesculapian workers person near toys and stuffed animals recovered from the site, inactive dusty from the rubble.

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Credit...Tom Brenner for The New York Times

For Mr. Biden, the relation arsenic consoler is simply a acquainted one. His palmy run for the presidency was built successful part connected his quality to show an empathy for those suffering that often eluded President Donald J. Trump, particularly successful the mediate of a pandemic that has claimed much than 600,000 American lives.

Although his league with household members was closed to the quality media, a video of Mr. Biden, posted by 1 of the household members, appeared to amusement him discussing the grief helium felt aft his woman and girl died successful a car mishap astir a half-century ago.

“The waiting, the waiting, is unbearable,” helium told the families, and helium aboriginal said it reminded him of waiting to perceive whether his sons would past the accident.

A White House authoritative said that the president walked from array to array to talk with each household seated successful the room. The authoritative said that Dr. Biden besides held idiosyncratic conversations with household members.

Mr. Biden said helium stayed successful the country until everyone who wanted to speech with him had the opportunity.

Erick de Moura, a nonmigratory of the gathering who spent the nighttime of the illness astatine his girlfriend’s house, praised Mr. Biden arsenic helium and different survivors and victims’ families near the ballroom astatine the St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort.

“For him to instrumentality his clip similar he’s taking close present conscionable walking astir and talking to each azygous family, it’s conscionable an astonishing enactment and we admit it precise much. It’s comforting for us,” Mr. de Moura said.

The president was joined by Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, some Republicans. In summation to Mr. DeSantis, Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat, and Ms. Levine Cava were besides successful attendance.

The president besides met with a radical of exigency workers, including firefighters and search-and-rescue teams who had been moving for the past week astatine the tract of the disaster.

At a 2nd memorial erected adjacent a church, immoderate onlookers gathered to wage their respects and ticker the president’s motorcade pass. One pistillate painstakingly removed flowers, wilted with property and rainwater, from the concatenation nexus fence, tucking a caller achromatic roseate successful spot adjacent to laminated black-and-white photos of the missing and the deceased.

Wendy Marra, 38, who lives successful the area, wiped distant tears earlier tacking a portion of artwork to the fence.

“The full satellite is here,” she said arsenic she sat connected the writer nearby, reflecting connected the radical she would spot connected nutrient transportation runs oregon connected formation walks and the gathering she utilized to look astatine done her chamber window.

“Biden conscionable wants to amusement his respect,” she said. “It means a batch that everybody is coming together.”

Daniel Hadar, the caput rabbi of Temple Moses Sephardic Congregation of Florida, an Orthodox synagogue successful Miami Beach, said that the code of Mr. Biden’s gathering signaled a displacement from different meetings with families implicit the past week. More than a twelve radical affiliated with the synagogue, conscionable a mates of miles from Champlain Towers, were successful the gathering astatine the clip of the collapse.

“There was thing for the archetypal clip I’m seeing: consolation,” Rabbi Hadar said. Whereas successful erstwhile meetings with officials, the rabbi has seen families explicit choler and vexation with the rescue process, families this clip expressed “peace and appreciation.”

Emily Cochrane reported from Surfside, and David E. Sanger and Michael D. Shear from Washington. Sophie Kasakove and Giulia Heyward contributed reporting from Surfside. Mitch Smith besides contributed reporting.

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