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Biden heads to Surfside, Florida to meet with first responders, families

Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden is traveling Surfside, Florida, Thursday following the devastating partial collapse of a beachside condominium building that has killed at least 18 people.

The president departed the White House early Thursday morning and will spend nearly eight hours on the ground in Florida, where the White House says he will thank first responders engaged in the ongoing search efforts, console the families affected by the disaster and meet with local officials about the operation. He is set to deliver remarks at 3:50 p.m. ET. First lady Jill Biden is accompanying him for the visit.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki says the visit has been closely coordinated with officials on the ground to ensure that it does not divert any resources away from search and rescue operations.

“They want to thank the heroic first responders, search and rescue teams, and everyone who has been working tirelessly around the clock, and meet with the families who have been forced to endure this terrible tragedy waiting in anguish and heartbreak for word of their loved ones, to offer them comfort as search and rescue efforts continue. And they want to make sure that state and local officials have the resources and support they need under the emergency declaration,” Psaki said earlier this week.

The collapse occurred around 1:15 a.m. local time last Thursday at the Champlain Towers South condominium in the small, beachside town of Surfside, about six miles north of Miami Beach. Approximately 55 of the oceanfront complex’s 136 units were destroyed, according to Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Raide Jadallah. At least 145 residents are still unaccounted for.

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