Crews halted their search for survivors of the Champlain Towers South collapse on Thursday out of concern that the rest of the building could also fall, a setback to an increasingly desperate rescue effort that for days has proceeded slowly and without hopeful news.
The pause of the search, which came a week after the condominium tower partially collapsed and just hours ahead of President Biden’s scheduled visit to the site in Surfside, Fla., further imperiled the chances of finding any survivors in the rubble. Eighteen people are known to have died in the collapse, and as many as 145 people remain missing.
“As many of you have already seen, we were forced to halt operations,” Mayor Daniella Levine Cava of Miami-Dade County said.
The northeast portion of the building, facing the beach, fell to the ground, while other units were left standing. But after days of intensive searches, the scene appeared quiet on Thursday, with cranes frozen above the rubble. Memorials and tents surrounding the area were still soaked in rainwater. Police and fire officials had further cordoned off the streets in preparation for Mr. Biden’s arrival.
The bodies of two sisters, ages 4 and 10, were pulled from the rubble on Wednesday as the known death toll rose to 18. Lucia Guara, 10, and her sister, Emma Guara, 4, were among four victims identified by the authorities on Wednesday evening. Rescue workers also found the bodies of Anaely Rodriguez, 42, and Andreas Giannitsopoulos, 21.
“Any loss of life, especially given the unexpected, unprecedented nature of this event is a tragedy,” Ms. Levine Cava, visibly emotional, said at a Wednesday news conference. “But the loss of our children is too great to bear.”
As the search-and-rescue effort continues, so do investigations into the condominium building and what could have gone wrong.
And officials said they remained focus on comforting families of the dead and the missing.
“While there’s an overwhelming amount of grief, there’s just still the apprehension about not knowing for sure,” Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida said Wednesday.
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