Condo collapse live updates: Biden to visit Surfside as search continues

·8 min read

Rescue crews continue to search through the rubble for survivors after a 12-story oceanfront condo tower partially collapsed in Surfside, just north of Miami Beach. The portion of Champlain Towers South that crumbled faces the ocean.

People who have loved ones at the condo, unaccounted for or safe, should call 305-614-1819 to notify officials. Anyone who lives at the Champlain Towers and is safe is asked to complete a Wellness Check form to help the Miami-Dade County keep track of tenants.

Here’s what we know so far:

Hurricane season may hamper Surfside collapse rescue efforts. Authorities work to split resources

9:00 p.m.: The possibility of a busy hurricane season, which has already seen four named storms, has authorities working on a plan so rescue efforts are not hampered at the site of the Surfside condominium collapse.

Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie and Miami-Dade Fire Chief Alan Cominsky have requested FEMA deploy an additional search-and-rescue team to Surfside to free up some crews to handle possible storms in the next week.

“Due to the recent five-day forecast with two storms, we decided that it would be best to go ahead and activate them,” Cominsky said.

There are currently two disturbances being tracked in the Atlantic. It is too early to tell where they will go or if they will make it to storm status.

Read more here.

Third lawsuit filed against condo association details survivor’s experience

4:00 p.m.: A new lawsuit has been filed this week against the Champlain Towers South Condo Association, the third filed in Miami-Dade circuit court since the collapse Thursday.

The suit contends the association engaged in “reckless and negligent conduct” by ignoring long-needed repairs to the building.

The class-action suits ask that similar lawsuits be consolidated, and that evidence be preserved to “determine everyone who is to blame for this tragedy and all of them be held responsible.”

Raysa Rodriguez, a retired postal worker, detailed her survival story in the suit. She witnessed chilling scenes as she raced out of Champlain Towers South, where she lived for 17 years.

“The beach side of Champlain had collapsed, pancaked,” she wrote. “I screamed in horror.”

Read more here.

Robots brought to aid in search efforts at Surfside condominium collapse

2:30 p.m.: Unmanned robots have been brought in to help rescue efforts to aid human rescuers who encounter precarious situations as they continue searching.

The PackBot 510 and the FirstLook robots from Teledyne FLIR have been sent to the collapsed Surfside site at Champlain Towers South. The PackBot is about the size of a suitcase and the FirstLook is the size of a brick.

These devices have also been used after the 9/11 World Trade Center collapse and during hostage situations.

Read more here.

No new victims found, Miami-Dade mayor says

12:28 p.m.: Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava during a news conference Tuesday said no new victims have been found in the rubble of the collapse.

She said 210 search-and-rescue workers are working on site in 12-hour shifts and are being regularly medically evaluated to ensure they’re fit to work.

“We do not need additional resources,” Levine Cava said.

The death toll remains at 11. All of the victims have been identified. The number of missing is 150.

Read the full story here.

Biden to visit Surfside after condo building collapse

11 a.m.: President Joe Biden will visit Surfside on Thursday, one week after the collapse of the residential building left at least 11 people dead and 150 missing, White House officials told McClatchy.

First lady Jill Biden will travel with him to the area near Miami Beach.

White House officials have been planning Biden’s trip to avoid any distractions at the disaster site, where rescue workers are still actively searching for survivors.

“The visit is being closely coordinated with officials on the ground to ensure it does not draw away critical local resources from the ongoing search-and-rescue operations or have any negative operational impact,” a White House official said.

Read the full story here.

Federal agency that investigated 9/11 might look into Surfside collapse

8:40 a.m.: A federal agency staffed with some of the world’s preeminent chemists and engineers has conducted only four investigations into building failures in the past 20 years, each time when the loss of life is high or the cause couldn’t immediately be determined.

After it was given the authority to take on investigations following 9/11, the National Institute of Standards and Technology spent years looking into the 2001 World Trade Center collapse, which killed 2,763 people; the 2003 Rhode Island nightclub fire, which killed 100; the 2011 Joplin, Missouri, tornado that killed 158; and it launched an ongoing investigation into Hurricane Maria in 2018, where more than 3,000 people died.

The Champlain Towers South condo collapse — where 11 people were confirmed dead as of Monday evening with 150 unaccounted for — is looking ever-more-likely to become the agency’s fifth.

Read the full story here.

Voluntary evacuations of collapsed condo tower’s ‘sister building’ have begun, mayor says

What’s the best way to help Surfside victims?

Starbucks in Surfside, at 9560 Harding Ave., began collecting goods in hours after the tragedy. By June 28, the manager said they had an overload of supplies.
Starbucks in Surfside, at 9560 Harding Ave., began collecting goods in hours after the tragedy. By June 28, the manager said they had an overload of supplies.

7:50 a.m.: Food, water, blankets, phone chargers and many other items came pouring in shortly after the 12-story Champlain Towers South tumbled last week.

Now, those on the ground helping victims and families say the best way to contribute isn’t by going through your pantry. It’s with cash to reputable organizations.

“Thank you for your many generous donations,” Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said during a Monday evening update. “It’s making a difference and the families are getting assistance today. This is truly monumental and so, so important to them and to us.”

Read the full story here.

They lost their homes in the Surfside condo collapse. There’s a plan to get them help

Two Miami-Dade public school students residing at Surfside condo are still missing

6:40 a.m.: Two Miami-Dade County public school students are among the 150 unaccounted for after the condo collapse.

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho told the Miami Herald that the school district has connected with 15 of the 17 students who lived in Champlain Towers South. Carvalho did not say which schools the missing children attend.

One school district employee, a registrar at Ruth K. Broad/Bay Harbor K-8 — the zoned public elementary school for Champlain Towers — also lived in the building and is safe.

Read the full story here.

Two days before condo collapse, a pool contractor photographed damage in garage

6:40 a.m.:

A commercial pool contractor indicated where he saw serious corrosion in the Champlain Towers South pool equipment room in a photo he took two days before the building collapsed.
A commercial pool contractor indicated where he saw serious corrosion in the Champlain Towers South pool equipment room in a photo he took two days before the building collapsed.

There was nothing unusual about the lobby and pool area at Champlain Towers South condo, which looked clean and well maintained to a commercial pool contractor who visited the building last Tuesday, just 36 hours before half of the building collapsed. Then, he saw the basement-level garage.

“There was standing water all over the parking garage,” the contractor, who asked not to be named, told the Miami Herald. He noted cracking concrete and severely corroded rebar under the pool.

He also took photos, which he shared with the Herald.

The contractor visited the condo building last week to put together a bid for a cosmetic restoration of the pool, as well as to price out new pool equipment — a small piece of the multimillion-dollar restoration project that was just getting underway at the 40-year-old building.

While he has worked in the industry for decades and has “gone in some scary places,” he said he was struck by the lack of maintenance in the lower level.

Read the full story here.

Who are the people sifting through the rubble at the Surfside building collapse?

6:40 a.m.: The disaster in Surfside has drawn emergency crews from across Florida. The number of people on the ground is equal to what was deployed in the aftermath of Cat 5 Hurricane Michael, which devastated the Panhandle in 2018, officials said.

“What is different is that I can’t recall any time that we’ve deployed all eight teams in the history of Florida for one single catastrophic collapse,” Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie said in a phone interview with the Miami Herald. The division is tasked with the state’s response to disasters like hurricanes and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Guthrie was referring to Florida’s eight Urban Search and Rescue task force teams, about 370 people, who are assisting in the search and rescue efforts in Surfside. They’re trained to work together and are specialized in a variety of disaster responses, including underwater rescues, trench rescues and rescues from structural collapses.

Read the full story here.

Key facts

6:40 a.m.: Here’s what to know Tuesday morning:

The death toll is 11. All of the victims have been identified. The number of missing is 150. The Surfside building collapsed at 1:23 a.m. Thursday. The tower fell while residents slept. The side of the building that collapsed faces the beach.

After days of pleading, families on Sunday were allowed to visit the ruins of the Champlain Tower South condo to grieve and pray for loved ones lost under tons of concrete and steel.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, a little-known sub-agency of the Department of Commerce, that investigated the fall of the Twin Towers after 9/11 are at Surfside. The agency is deciding if it will launch a full investigation into the catastrophe, and then whether to begin the painstaking process of determining what went wrong.

It will likely be months or even years before engineers and other experts know exactly why a part of the Champlain Towers South came crashing down.