Royal Caribbean Opens Cruise Ship to House Visiting Rescuers in Surfside

surfside condo
Search and rescue workers descend from the rubble pile at the Champlain Towers South condo building, where scores of people remain missing one week after it partially collapsed, Friday, July 2, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

MIAMI (AP) — With housing options dwindling, a cruise ship will host hundreds of rescuers pouring into South Florida from across the country as the search for victims continues at a fallen 12-story condominium building in Surfside, Miami.

Royal Caribbean cruise lines said it will host about 600 first responders on board its Explorer of the Seas ship.

The ship, which can accommodate more than 3,000 passengers, began housing rescue teams Thursday and likely will continue for the next month.

“This tragedy in our own backyard is heart-wrenching,” said Richard Fain, Royal Caribbean Group’s chairman and CEO. “Our thoughts are with the families and our whole community, and our thanks go out to the hardworking search and rescue teams. Providing them shelter is a small way to show our support.”

The company said it will provide individual staterooms, hot meals, laundry service and Wi-Fi to its guests.

Juan Kuryla, the port director, told the Miami Herald on Friday that the ship now docked at PortMiami was brought in specifically to provide lodging for rescuers as hotels and other accommodations in the area fill up because of the July 4 holiday weekend.

Kuryla worried that Hurricane Elsa could complicate things should it veer closer to South Florida and said the ship may have to leave port if the threat becomes more serious.

During a Friday morning briefing, Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah warned relatives of the missing that the search could be suspended again if the hurricane — now in the eastern Caribbean — brings strong winds that would make the work too dangerous.

He also sought to forestall any misunderstanding that some rescuers who are now staying in tents would abandon the site to go “partying.” He said that because hotels in the area are heavily booked, some of the rescuers might be housed in cruise ships that can stay safe during a storm.

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