Jul 1, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden: Families of Surfside victims are "realistic" about chances of loved ones' survival

Joe and Jill Biden visit a photo wall, the 'Surfside Wall of Hope & Memorial', near the partially collapsed condo building
Joe and Jill Biden visit a photo wall, the 'Surfside Wall of Hope & Memorial', near the partially collapsed condo building on July 1. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden spoke Thursday evening after meeting with the families of Surfside victims, who he said are "going through hell," as search efforts continue at the site of the condo collapse.

Driving the news: Biden said the families are "realistic" and understand the chances of their loved ones being found alive are increasingly slim.

  • "They're all realists. They all look and they see those floors, just, literally, cement upon cement upon cement," Biden said.
  • "They know that the chances are, as each day goes by, diminished slightly. But at a minimum, at a minimum, they want to recover the bodies. They want to recover the bodies.”
  • "Jill and I wanted them to know that we're with them. The country is with them. Our message today is that we're here for you, as one nation. As one nation."

Biden added that the administration would be coving 100% of the cost of the first 30 days of the search-and-rescue efforts. In addition, the administration is expediting visas for family members abroad in "Latin America, South America, Europe and Israel.”

Of note: Biden also took time to thank Florida state officials, FEMA, and the first responders on site.

  • "There's no disagreement, no bickering. Everybody's on the same team. It's what America's all about...there's no Democrat or Republican out there, just people wanting to do the right thing for their fellow Americans."
  • “I want to compliment FEMA, and I might add, all those folks risking their lives to save lives, but also holding out hopes that those will be found. Hope springs eternal.”

The big picture: Of the collapse, Biden said there is no “firm proof” yet what caused the building that this, as well as the safety of the remaining structure, still needs to be determined.

  • Biden added that many of the families spoke of their concerns of their building "moving and shaking" due to nearby constructions, and that many expressed concerns about the impact of global warming.
  • "I don't think there is at this point any definitive judgement as to why it collapsed and what can be done to prevent it from happening, and what other buildings may have to be inspected to determine if they have the same problems," Biden said.

Following Biden's remarks, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava confirmed at a press conference that search-and-rescue efforts have resumed at the site after pausing in the early morning hours due to structural concerns.

  • Levine Cava noted that access to the site is still restricted due to "ongoing safety concerns about the integrity of the building" but work is being done to expand the search zone.
  • Plans are also proceeding for the possible demolition of the remaining structure, Levine Cava added.

State of play: 18 people have been confirmed dead and as many as 145 people remain missing. Levine Cava noted that 17 families of the deceased have been notified thus far.

Go deeper: Biden visits Surfside as search efforts paused over "structural concerns"

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