TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis believes the Surfside condo collapse may have been an isolated incident and not a sign about widespread issues across the state that could impact the real estate market.
“I think this building had problems from the start; let’s just put it that way,” DeSantis said at a Wednesday morning news conference in Tallahassee. “So I wouldn’t jump to conclusions about it.”
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The governor was asked about the Surfside tragedy during a Tropical Storm Elsa update.
Despite the storm, search and rescue efforts at the building collapse site have continued in full force although there were a couple of Elsa related weather delays on Tuesday. Officials are holding out hope of finding someone alive in the rubble as the odds of hearing good news grows slimmer each day.
DeSantis said he has seen and spoken to some of the grieving families who lived in Champlain Towers South.
“You see that pain is very, very deep,” he said while also speaking about the extremely tough waiting game. “But I think the agony of not knowing, could there be a rescue? Could they potentially see one of their loved ones? And then you wait, and then you don’t have the news?”
The governor said not knowing deepens the agony and deepens the grief.
“It’s been, I think, a unique tragedy. You don’t expect to see that many, that many folks impacted. When I first got the reports, early morning said a partial collapse. And yeah, I was thinking like maybe some balcony or some part of a building. But then when you look at, I mean, it was a massive collapse of a structure which just doesn’t happen in this country.”
Recovering from the disaster will not only be tough for the Surfside community, but also all of South Florida, Florida, and the world, DeSantis said.
“We have people coming from all over the world to mourn the tragedy. I mean, these are folks who touch people. When I talk to the Israeli Prime Minister, I mean, obviously they sent folks, we have a lot of folks who had connections in Latin America, and, and then obviously, right here in our own communities. And so it’s going to be tough.”
He referred to conversations he had with people who lived in the building.
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“I think it’s going to be tough to get everyone back on their feet. I mean, even the folks who didn’t lose anyone, but then left their units. I talked to folks that literally, if their unit was 10 yards more in one direction, they would have been in the rubble, and they actually have pictures of showing as they’re leaving. You have people that escaped, that’s a very traumatic experience. And then all their possessions are basically, are basically gone. Their home is now gone.”
Prior to the controlled implosion of the unstable remaining portion of the building on Sunday night, DeSantis asked if residents could go in and get their possessions, but the answer was no.
“It was too dangerous to be able to do that. And so that’s, that’s very sad, because you have everything from valuables to family heirlooms to all these other things.”
While thankful to be alive, he said, survivors have a long road to recovery.
“Getting those folks off their feet, what’s that going to be doing in terms of the mental health and the traumatic experience. And then of course, the families that lost somebody, it’s going to be a deep wound for a long time,” said DeSantis. “But as tragic as it’s been, I think the outpouring of support has shown a lot of great parts of our community. Certainly the people, the first responders; they are invested in this mission. When you got to pull these guys off that pile, they want to be there, they want to be able to identify, they want to be able to participate in this rescue mission. And it’s something that’s really deep in them in terms of accomplishing the mission.”
When the governor was asked about how the Surfside collapse could impact the real estate market, DeSantis replied, “Is this something that was unique to this building? Is it something that was unique to the person that maybe developed it? Because obviously, there are sister properties. Is it something that buildings of that age that would have implications beyond that, whether southern Florida or the entire state of Florida? I think we need to get those definitive answers.”
At this stage, DeSantis said conversations with people on the scene lead him to believe the collapse may be an isolated incident and not a sign about widespread issues across the state that could impact the real estate market.
“I think this building had problems from the start. Let’s just put it that way,” he said. “So I wouldn’t jump to conclusions about it. But at the same time, if there is something identified, that would have implications broader than then Champlain Towers, then then obviously we are going to, you know, we were going to take that and act as appropriate.”
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Crews have removed 124 tons of debris from the site. It’s being sorted and stored in a warehouse as potential evidence in the investigation into why the building collapsed, officials said.