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Search halted due to concerns other tower could fall

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Search and Rescue teams look for possible survivors and to recover remains in the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building on June 30, 2021 in Surfside, Florida.

Joe Raedle | Getty Images

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

“We’re doing everything we can to ensure that the safety of our first responders is paramount, and will continue search-and-rescue operations as soon as it is safe to do so,” Levine Cava told reporters.

Engineers, with the help of the state, are continuing to monitor the structure and develop plans to move forward with the search, 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 want to stress that President Biden’s visit today will have no impact on what happens at the site for search and rescue operation will continue as soon as it is safe to do so,” Levine Cava said at the press conference.

As of early Thursday, 18 people were confirmed dead and 147 were unaccounted for, according to local officials.

In recent days, a growing body of evidence has come to light indicating that the 40-year-old condominium building showed signs of major structural damage as far back as 2018.

A newly uncovered video taken the night of the collapse shows water pouring into the parking garage of Champlain Towers.

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

“We are going in with an open mind,” Judith Mitrani-Reiser, associate chief of the materials and structural systems division at NIST, told reporters Wednesday at a press conference near the site of the collapse.

“With any building collapse, we would want to understand how the building was designed, constructed, modified and maintained,” she said.

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

But the question of who, if anyone, is at fault for the collapse is not likely to be resolved in the near future.

James Olthoff, the director of NIST, told The Miami Herald the federal investigation would not seek to assign blame for the collapse.

“This is a fact finding, not fault finding, type of an investigation,” he told the Herald. “It will take time, possibly a couple of years.”

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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