TALLAHASSEE — President Joe Biden early Friday approved federal assistance as crews continued working at the scene of a collapsed condominium building in Miami-Dade County and as dozens of people remained missing.
A White House news release said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been directed to provide equipment and resources needed at the Champlain Towers complex in Surfside, where the 12-story building collapsed just after 1:30 a.m. on Thursday.
“Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobiliz, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency,” the release issued just after midnight said.
The release said a program that provides assistance to individuals and households “and assistance for debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, will be provided.”
Biden addressed the collapse Thursday, saying “whatever help you want that the federal government can provide, we are waiting, just ask us, we’ll be there.”
With search-and-rescue operations continuing, dozens of people remained missing Friday morning. The building is estimated to have been at least 80 percent occupied. The Miami Herald reported Friday morning that four deaths had been confirmed.
Late Thursday, Gov. Ron DeSantis, after touring the site earlier in the day, declared a state of emergency for Miami-Dade County that included seeking direct federal assistance.
“The TV doesn’t do it justice,” DeSantis told reporters after Thursday’s tour. “I mean, it is really, really traumatic to see the collapse of a massive structure like that. Right now, we have fire-rescue, they are in search-and-rescue mode. They are trying to identify survivors. I know they have made contact with some. And they’re doing everything they can to save lives.”
The state declaration was issued a couple of hours after Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava implored DeSantis to declare a state of emergency “to allocate the necessary resources we need here on the ground.”
“This order is critical to marshal the full resources needed in this crisis. Thank you, @GovRonDeSantis,” Cava tweeted after the governor’s order was issued.
In the order, DeSantis noted the collapse destroyed a substantial portion of the oceanfront property and left the remainder uninhabitable.
In addition to seeking federal assistance, DeSantis’ order called for using mutual aid agreements with other states.
The order also named Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie as the point person in coordinating the state’s response, and it directed all state, regional and local governmental agencies, including law enforcement agencies, to identify personnel needed to assist in recovery efforts.