New York Daily News: MANHATTAN – Rescue workers halted operations at the site of last week’s horrific building collapse in South Florida over fears that the remaining structure could fall and threaten the safety of hundreds of first responders, officials said Thursday.
The efforts were paused around 2am after crews noticed that the standing portion of the 12-story tower had shifted about 6 to 12 inches, Miami-Dade County Fire Chief Alan Cominsky said a news conference held just before President Biden’s visit to the site.
The partial collapse of Champlain Towers South in Surfside has killed at least 18 people, though the death toll was expected to climb as more than 140 people remain unaccounted for. The June 24 disaster also left many apartments entirely exposed at the section that didn’t fall, a stunning scene resembling a doll house.
State and county engineers were called to the site to assess the safety of the crews working next to a structure that could topple at any moment.
“We’re doing everything we can to ensure the safety of our first responders is paramount and to continue our search-and-rescue operations as soon as it is safe to do so,” Miami-Dade County Daniella Levine Cava told reporters.
She said Biden’s visit would not affect the operations. The commander-in-chief and First Lady Jill Biden, who landed in Miami around 9:30 a.m., were expected to meet with first responders and families of some of the victims.
Officials were also monitoring a newly formed tropical storm that could threaten the area in the next few days. Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tropical Storm Elsa was not expected to have an impact on the search-and-rescue mission at least until Saturday.
The storm was moving toward the Windward and southern Leeward Islands on Thursday, with the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Cuba and other islands also on its path, according to the National Hurricane Center’s latest advisory. The agency said it was “too soon” to determine if Elsa would affect Florida.