The search was suspended as a consequence of issues that one other tower would possibly collapse

Search and rescue teams are searching for possible survivors in the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South apartment building on June 27, 2021 in Surfside, Florida.

Giorgio Viera | AFP | Getty Images

Search and rescue operations on the collapse of a Florida condominium building were halted this morning due to structural concerns that the rest of the building could collapse, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said at a news conference Thursday.

“We are doing everything we can to ensure that the safety of our first responders is of the utmost importance and will resume search and rescue as soon as it is safe,” Levine Cava told reporters.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky said the shutdown was due to “additional building stability concerns” identified by subject matter experts.

This includes 15 to 12 inches of movement, a large pillar hanging from the building that could fall down and damage the support pillars in the underground car park, and slight movements of the concrete floor slabs on the south side of the building in the north and south corners of the building that According to Cominsky, “could lead to additional failure of the building”.

Engineers, with the help of the state, continue to oversee the structure and develop plans to move the search forward, Levine Cava added.

Levine Cava told reporters that President Joe Biden’s visit to the area later Thursday will have no impact on search and rescue operations.

“I would like to stress that President Biden’s visit today will have no impact on what is happening at the site. Search and rescue operations will continue as soon as it is safe,” Levine Cava said at the press conference.

Governor Ron DeSantis also provided updates on Tropical Category 5 Cyclone, Tropical Storm Elsa, which continues to move rapidly through the Caribbean Sea. DeSantis told reporters that the cyclone is unlikely to hit Florida by Saturday, but could return to the northwestern part of the state by Monday.

DeSantis said the state’s emergency management department continues to develop additional contingency plans for the cyclone.

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As of early Thursday, 18 people were confirmed dead and 145 were missing, according to local officials.

In the last few days there have been increasing indications that the 40-year-old apartment building had already suffered considerable structural damage in 2018.

A newly discovered video, captured the night of the collapse, shows water pouring into the Champlain Towers parking garage.

On Wednesday evening, the National Institute of Standards and Technology announced it had launched a federal investigation into the causes of the building collapse.

“We are going in with an open mind,” said Judith Mitrani-Reiser, deputy head of the materials and support systems department at NIST, at a press conference near the collapse site on Wednesday.

“Whenever a building collapses, we want to understand how the building was designed, built, modified and maintained,” she said.

Several lawsuits have been filed on behalf of the victims’ families, some of which are still missing.

But the question of who, if anything, was responsible for the breakdown is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon.

James Olthoff, the director of NIST, told the Miami Herald the federal investigation will not attempt to assign the blame for the collapse.

“This is a kind of investigation, not a troubleshooting,” he told the Herald. “It will take time, possibly a few years.”

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