President Biden and first lady Jill Biden will travel Thursday to Surfside, Florida, where the collapse of a beachfront condo building last week left 10 dead and more than 150 people still unaccounted for.
The White House has not yet provided further details of their trip, but the president and first lady are likely to visit the site of the collapse of the Champlain Towers South.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Tuesday told reporters that the president and the first lady will “thank the heroic first responders, search and rescue teams, and all those who’ve been working around the clock.”
The president and first lady are also expected to 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 the search and rescue continues.”
“And they want to make sure that state and local officials have the resources and support they need under the emergency declaration approved by the president for Miami-Dade, Florida,” Psaki said Tuesday, noting that the visit is being “closely coordinated with officials on the ground to ensure it does not provide any critical local resources from ongoing search and rescue operations or have any negative operational impact.”
The president on Friday ordered federal assistance to support the massive response, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate all disaster relief efforts.
FEMA said in a statement that the assistance was intended to alleviate some of the strain on local and state emergency crews that are working around the clock to rescue those trapped.
Psaki also told reporters Tuesday that the White House is “providing every resource we can from the federal government, not just to help with the search and rescue operations, but to be part of any effort to determine if an investigation should happen moving forward.”
“The president supports an investigation,” Psaki said.
According to the White House, the National Institute of Standards and Technology is authorized to investigate building failures. The authorities of that agency are modeled after the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates transportation accidents.
Psaki told reporters that a team of six scientists and engineers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology have been sent to the collapse to “collect firsthand information on the towers” that would later be used “to determine if an investigation or study will be conducted.”
“So, obviously, that would be something the president would support,” Psaki said. “And certainly, we would look to that if that’s a decision made to learn how we can help protect infrastructure across the country.”
The president’s trip comes after the White House raised concern that his visit would divert law enforcement resources from the ongoing search-and-rescue operations and investigation into the collapse.