SURFSIDE, FL — Greek-American Jimmy Patronis, Florida Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal, on July 1 met with President Joe Biden along with first responders who were working on the condo tower collapse. Patronis also spoke with His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros on the phone mind the continuing efforts to locate possible survivors in the wreckage of the 12-storey apartment building that collapsed in Miami. However, the search paused temporarily as there are fears about other parts of the building that remained standing after the collapse.
Patronis said he was moved by the Archbishop's phone call, saying that he asked His Eminence to bless the efforts of the rescue teams and to pray for all the families involved in this tragedy.
Patronis had the opportunity to meet with President Biden, who traveled to Florida to support the families of the victims and to express his support for the difficult work undertaken by the fire department. In his conversation with Biden, Patronis spoke of the terrible images and expressed concern that many members of the rescue squad would face Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after completing their mission.
In an interview with Miami television station WSVN, Fire Marshal Patronis described the plans for a ramp as "a Herculean effort" that would allow crews "to leverage massive equipment to remove mass pieces of concrete," which could lead to good results.
Patronis told The Associated Press that the ramp will permit heavy equipment to get closer to areas where debris needs to be cleared. The new equipment includes a so-called nibbler, a massive machine that has a scissors-like tool at the end of a long arm to cut through concrete and rebar.
Officials have been concerned an underground parking garage could collapse under the weight of heavy equipment, so they decided to build the makeshift limestone ramp, Patronis said. He said dogs are used to check for survivors in the area where the machine works, and then the nibbler is sent in.
"So you can really make some serious rapid headway just because of the sheer hydraulic forces this thing can exert versus a human being with hand tools," Patronis said.
The cause of the collapse is under investigation. A 2018 engineering report found that the building's ground-floor pool deck was resting on a concrete slab that had "major structural damage" and needed extensive repairs. The report also found "abundant cracking" of concrete columns, beams and walls in the parking garage.
Just two months before the building came down, the president of its board wrote a letter to residents saying that structural problems identified in the 2018 inspection had "gotten significantly worse" and that major repairs would cost at least $15.5 million. With bids for the work still pending, the building suddenly collapsed last Thursday.
Rescuers still faced enormous obstacles as they spent a seventh day searching for survivors. The pancake collapse of the building has frustrated efforts to reach anyone who may have survived in a pocket of space.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.