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Rescue efforts in Surfside resume following temporary pause of operations

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Posted at 2:18 AM, Jul 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-01 18:52:25-04

Rescue efforts at the site of a collapsed condo building in Surfside, Florida, have resumed after being paused due to structural concerns with the debris pile and the portion of the building still standing.

On Thursday, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava says the Surfside search and rescue operation resumed at 4:45 p.m. ET after engineers evaluated the structural integrity of the building.

Levine Cava confirmed Thursday morning that rescue efforts at the site of a collapsed condo building in Surfside, Florida, were paused due to structural concerns with the debris pile and the portion of the building still standing.

She added that the death toll still stands at 18, but they have confirmed the identities of 17 of the victims.

WATCH LIVE:

According to Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky, rescue efforts were paused at around 2 a.m. local time after officials detected movement in concrete and columns in the area, prompting concern that a further collapse could occur.

Cominsky said that officials detected a shift of between six and 12 inches in debris.

"We've been working in a very unsafe environment, so I can't pinpoint to one specific instance," Cominsky said as to what led debris to shift.

Watch live as the president meets with rescuers in Surfside.

Cominsky added that he does not have a timeline at the moment as to when rescue efforts can resume.

Levine Cava said that rescue efforts would resume "as soon as it's safe to do so."

The pause in work comes as President Joe Biden visited the area on Thursday. Levine Cava said that the president's visit had "no impact" on the stoppage.

Biden arrived in Surfside Thursday morning and met with local leaders that included Levine Cava and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. He also met with rescuers who had been searching the debris for survivors.

"I promise you, we know. What you're doing here is incredible," Biden told the group, urging them to "be careful."

The president also met with the families of victims and those still holding out hope for loved ones.

During a press conference Thursday afternoon, Biden said he tried to speak with all the family members who wanted to speak with him.

“The whole nation is mourning with these families. They see it every day on television. They’re going through hell, those who’ve survived the collapse as well as those who are missing loved ones,” said Biden.

Watch Biden's remarks below:

Watch officials provide an update on rescue efforts Thursday morning in the video below.

During a press conference on Wednesday morning, officials said that they were "very grateful" that Biden was visiting the city and assured that they have "plans in place with the Secret Service to ensure this operation will continue."

On Thursday, officials confirmed that the death toll from the collapse remained at 18. Rescuers pulled a total of six bodies from the wreckage on Wednesday, and officials said that 145 people are still missing following last Thursday's collapse.

Among those recovered Wednesday were the bodies of two children, aged 4 and 10.

First responders have not found any survivors in the wreckage since last Thursday. They say they are not yet switching their efforts into "recovery mode."

"It's absolutely still a search and rescue mission," Cominsky said Wednesday.

Those leading the rescue efforts must now also deal with the prospect of facing a tropical storm. On Thursday morning, Tropical Storm Elsa formed in the Atlantic Ocean, and current National Hurricane Center forecasts project the storm could reach South Florida by Monday morning.

On Wednesday, DeSantis warned that some rescue resources might need to be switched to storm preparation efforts should the state face a tropical storm or hurricane.

"We hope we don't have to, but 'tis the season, and you have to be ready," he said.