A residential building has partially collapsed in Surfside, near Miami, Florida, leaving at least 4 dead and some 159 missing – among them people from at least six Latin American countries. The scene has been taken over by a group of state and local search and rescue teams, including some 80 firefighters.
The federal government has also dispatched a team of scientists and structural engineers to the scene to get a thorough assessment of the situation. The team includes six scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which was commissioned in the wake of the 9/11 attacks to study building structural damages to help inform standard building codes and emergency response protocols.
“It’s hard to put into words how heartbreaking the situation is in Surfside,” tweeted Senator Marco Rubio of Florida moments after the news broke. “The next few days are going to be incredibly difficult ones for all involved,” he added.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has approved an emergency visa for family members of the victims of the collapse. He’s also keen on getting to the bottom of everything.
“We need a definitive explanation for how this could have happened.”
“We don’t want to get [it] wrong, obviously, but at the same time I do think it’s important that it’s timely because you have a lot of families here, you have families that lost loved ones in this going collapse… you have other folks who were able to get out safely, but then lost their homes,” he added.
Vice Mayor of Surfside Tina Paul said the collapsed building had passed a recent inspection by state regulators.
NIST spokesperson Jennifer Huergo disclosed that the team’s mission is to carry out preliminary findings to determine the scope of the full investigations. However, she mentioned that the team doesn’t have the power to take possession of building materials and other evidence that are necessary for full investigations.
She also said that the research team’s work is different than and will not interfere with the rescue effort of the multi-agency emergency team on the site.
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