Early Friday morning the White House announced that President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency in Surfside and ordered federal assistance for state and local responses to Thursday morning’s condo building collapse.
The President’s action authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate all disaster relief efforts to alleviate the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population.
The order also calls on federal agencies to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in Miami-Dade County.
The action comes after the horrific collapse early Thursday morning of the Champlain Towers South condominium building. A wing of the 12-story building came down with a roar around 1:30 a.m. By Friday morning, there were four confirmed deaths. But 159 people were still unaccounted for, authorities said, raising fears that the death toll could climb sharply.
Officials did not know how many were in the tower when it fell.
Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency. The Individuals and Households Program and assistance for debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, will be provided.
FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell named Thomas J. McCool as the federal coordinating officer for federal recovery operations in the affected areas.
About half of the building’s roughly 130 units were affected, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said. Rescuers pulled at least 35 people from the rubble by mid-morning, and heavy equipment was being brought in to help stabilize the structure to provide more access, Raide Jadallah of Miami-Dade Fire and Rescue said.
The tower has a mix of seasonal and year-round residents, and while the building keeps a log of guests, it does not keep track of when owners are in residence, Burkett said.