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One week after Miami building collapse, search and rescue halted due to safety concerns

A week after the partial collapse of a Miami Beach-area condo building, search and rescue crews paused their work early Thursday over fears that the other half of the building might come down.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said operations were halted over “concerns about the standing structure.” She said the families of those missing were informed, and the “search and rescue operation will continue as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Fire Chief Alan R. Cominsky said “slight movement in the concrete floor slabs near north and south corner of the building that could cause additional failure of the building moving in the debris pile” forced the temporary stop at 2:11 a.m.

South Florida is also expecting a possible tropical storm, which could interfere with search efforts. Crews have grappled with bad weather since work began on the site shortly after the collapse around 1:30 a.m. June 24.

But Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday that some of resources working round the clock at Champlain Towers South in Surfside may have to be diverted if storms hit Florida. “Tis the season and you’ve got to be ready,” he said.

Thursday also marks a week since a survivor has been discovered.

On Wednesday, the bodies of two children, ages 10 and 4, were found at the site, bringing the death toll to 18.

“Any loss of life, especially given the unexpected, unprecedented nature of this event, is a tragedy,” Levine Cava said. “But the loss of our children is too great to bear.”

The number of unaccounted for people stands at 145.

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden will travel to Surfside Thursday to meet with first responders and family members of those still missing.

Biden will receive a briefing from Levine Cava, DeSantis — a Republican and ally of former President Donald Trump — as well as first responders and other local leaders.

The president will also thank search and rescue teams and will meet with families who have lost or are still missing loved ones. He will give remarks at 3:50 p.m. before returning to Washington.

The White House has said that Biden did not immediately visit the site out of concern that a presidential visit would disrupt rescue efforts.

Levine Cava said Thursday morning that the president’s visit would have “no impact on what happens on this site.”

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, which investigated in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, announced Wednesday that “it would launch a full technical investigation” into the collapse.

A team has been at the site for days and determined that the collapse met the criteria for an in-depth federal investigation.

The collapse was a “major building failure at significantly less than its design basis, during construction, or while in active use,” an agency statement said. “A fact-finding investigation of the building performance and emergency response and evacuation procedures will likely result in significant and new knowledge or building code revision recommendations needed to reduce or mitigate public risk and economic losses from future building failures.”

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