President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden will visit Surfside, Florida, on Thursday, as the search for survivors of a condo collapse in the beachside community approaches the one-week point.
Biden told reporters he hoped to visit “as soon as we can” as he boarded Marine One Tuesday morning, en route to Wisconsin for a meeting on agriculture and rural economic growth.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday aboard Air Force One that the president and first lady “want to thank the heroic first responders, search and rescue teams and everyone who’s been working tirelessly around the clock.”
The two will will also meet with families “forced to endure this terrible tragedy, waiting in anguish and heartbreak for word of their loved ones, and to offer them comfort as search and rescue efforts continue,” Psaki said.
Two more bodies were recovered from the rubble Monday, five days after the 12-story building’s sudden structural failure. The discoveries brought the confirmed death toll to 11, with 150 others still missing.
In a press briefing Monday, Psaki said that Biden was waiting to visit Florida until the administration could be sure his presence wouldn’t draw resources away from ongoing search-and-rescue efforts.
She added that the president would back a federal investigation into the collapse, and has dispatched Federal Emergency Management Agency officials, including some from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, OSHA and the FBI for that effort.
A 2018 structural engineering report on the building warned of “major structural damage” in Champlain Towers South, but made no mention of imminent collapse.