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Officials Resume The Surfside Search And Rescue Efforts After Hours-long Pause

Coast guard boats patrol in front of the partially collapsed Champlain Towers South condo building, ahead of a planned visit to the site by President Joe Biden, on Thursday.
Mark Humphrey
Coast guard boats patrol in front of the partially collapsed Champlain Towers South condo building, ahead of a planned visit to the site by President Joe Biden, on Thursday.

Updated July 1, 2021 at 7:19 PM ET

Search and rescue efforts at the site of the Surfside, Fla., condo collapse have resumed after pausing for most of Thursday out of concern about the stability of the remaining structure.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced the resumption and described the searchers as "really excited to get back out there."

She said engineers had evaluated the parts of the building still standing and promised to do "everything to protect our first responders." She noted that plans are underway to take down the standing structure in a safe way.

Levine Cava noted that some of the searching was being done with drones. Earlier the Federal Aviation Administration had warned other drone operators to stay away from the area.

The pause began when movement was detected in the debris

Efforts were stopped at around 2 a.m., said Chief Alan Cominsky of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue. Support columns and piles of debris were in danger of shifting and falling, according to structural engineers who assessed the scene, Cominsky said.

Officials had been monitoring cracks at the site and said their monitors picked up potentially dangerous movement of those cracks that endangered the entire operation.

Six to 12 inches of movement were recorded in a large column hanging from the structure that could potentially fall and cause damage to the support columns in the south terrain garage area, according to Cominsky. Officials also observed movement in the concrete floor slabs on the south side of the structure in the north and south corner of the building. It could cause additional failure of the building as well as movement in the debris pile immediately adjacent to the south side of the structure, according to Cominsky.

President Biden visited the site and families

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden met with families in Surfside on Thursday for more than 2 1/2 hours, but officials stressed that the president's visit had nothing to do with the pause.

As of Wednesday, 18 people were confirmed dead and 145 people were still unaccounted for. Officials said Thursday evening that those numbers had not changed since the previous update.

Officials heard a voice but could not locate it

Cominsky said that during the search, first responders heard a female voice for several hours but were unable to locate and rescue that person. The voice eventually stopped after several hours, Cominsky said.

"We did hear audible sounds. They were searching for a female voice, is what we heard for several hours and eventually, we didn't hear her voice anymore. We continued searching," he said. "This is emphasizing the magnitude of what we're going through, the efforts of all our fire rescue personnel and everyone's that here on scene, trying to do the best we can in these heroic efforts."

The names of many who have been found dead in the wreckage have not yet been released. Officials said Wednesday that two of the victims were children, ages 4 and 10.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Sharon Pruitt-Young
Barbara Campbell
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