Biden says Florida condo collapse survivors and victims’ families are ‘going through hell’ after meeting with them in Surfside

Joe biden looks at camera
President Joe Biden speaks about the collapse of the 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building last week in Surfside, Florida, following a meeting with families of victims in Miami, Florida.

  • Biden expressed sympathy for those affected by the Florida condominium crash on Thursday.
  • Biden and First Lady Jill Biden met with the families affected by the tragedy that day.
  • There have been 18 confirmed deaths from the collapse and as many as 145 people are still missing.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden delivered somber remarks expressing sympathy for those affected by the Florida condominium crash after meeting with victims’ families in Surfside on Thursday.

“They’re going through hell,” Biden told reporters of the families. “Jill and I want them to know that we’re with them and the country’s with them.”

The president reiterated that the search for the remaining 145 missing people will continue, although efforts were halted on Thursday amid concerns about the stability of the standing portion of the building. He said the victims’ families are hopeful, but “realistic.”

“They know that the chances are, as each day goes by, diminished slightly,” Biden said. “But at a minimum, at a minimum, they want to recover the bodies. They want to recover the bodies.”

He mentioned that he spoke with one woman whose husband and baby boy are missing and noted how difficult it is for families not to know whether their loved ones are dead or alive. Biden mentioned his own experience of loss when his first wife and baby daughter were killed in a car accident in 1972 and how excruciating it was not knowing whether his two sons, Beau and Hunter, would survive their serious injuries.

“It’s bad enough to lose somebody, but the really hard part is to not know if they’re surviving or not,” he said.

Biden met with first responders earlier on Thursday and praised Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, and other state and federal lawmakers for their “total, complete cooperation.”

“There’s no disagreement, no bickering, everyone’s on the same team,” he said. “The one thing that made me feel good about this is the cohesion that exists.”

The president urged first responders to accept mental health care if necessary in the aftermath of the dangerous and traumatic search and rescue efforts.

“There’s going to be a lot of pain and suffering and even need for psychological help in the days and months that follow, so we’re not going anywhere,” he told a group of first-responders he and Jill met with. “Tell me what you need.”

The Champlain Towers South building collapsed in the early morning of June 24. Five lawsuits have been filed so far against the condominium association alleging negligence and failure to maintain the building and have provided a glimpse of the condominium’s condition before it collapsed.

A structural engineer found “major structural damage” and “abundant” cracked concrete in a 2018 inspection report that said about 8% of the concrete slabs in the garage and plaza experienced “concrete deterioration.” A tourist recorded a video of water streaming into the garage from the ceiling just 12 minutes before the building caved in.

There have been 18 confirmed deaths so far from the condominium collapse.

Biden said there is still no “definitive judgment” on the causes of the building collapse, only “rational speculation.”

He added that “many” Surfside survivors and families mentioned that they think climate change and worsening tropical storms may have played a role in the building’s deteriorating structure.

“Interesting to me – I didn’t raise it – but how many of the survivors and how many of the families talked about the impact of global warming,” Biden told reporters. “They talked about sea levels rising and the combination of that and the concern about incoming tropical storms.”

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Firefighters hear banging noises while tunneling under condo building that collapsed in Miami

The rubble of the Champlain Towers South building in Florida
The Champlain Towers South building in Surfside, Florida unexpectedly collapsed on Thursday morning.

  • Florida firefighters heard a banging noise during rescue operations at a collapsed condo building.
  • At least one person died when a section of Champlain Towers South collapsed Thursday morning.
  • An investigation is underway.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Firefighters who are tunneling under the condo building that collapsed Thursday morning in Miami are hearing noises that could be coming from survivors.

At a press conference Thursday evening, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Ray Jadallah said sonar devices were picking up noises from within the rubble.

“We did receive sounds,” Jadallah told reporters. “What sounds like people banging – well not people, but sounds of a possibility of a banging. Short of that, we haven’t heard any voices coming from the pile.”

Firefighters are currently tunning to different floors from a parking garage that is beneath the collapsed building.

“The process is slow and methodical,” Jadallah said, with operations to continue through the night. He added that 37 people have now been pulled from the site, including 35 from the structure itself and two from the rubble.

So far, authorities have confirmed just one fatality, without releasing further details on the victim.

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