L.A. rescue team mobilized to travel to Haiti

10:02, January 14, 2010      

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The Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACFD) said on Wednesday that an urban search and rescue team was ready to travel to Haiti in the aftermath of the magnitude-7 earthquake that rocked the Caribbean island nation Tuesday.

Team members were waiting this morning for the order to deploy, said LACFD Inspector Frederic Stowers.

"If we are deployed these guys are going over there to be self-sufficient," Stowers said. "They'll be working together. If necessary, they'll coordinate with members of the U.S. Embassy in Haiti for translators. But these guys are trained to be self-reliant."

French is the dominant language in Haiti. No French speakers had been identified early Wednesday on the county's urban search-and-rescue team but the potential language barrier was the least of squad members' concerns, Stowers said.

"We're waiting to hear from Haiti about an assessment this morning, for logistics and planning purposes," Stowers said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with them now."

Commanders of the 72-member team received a request Tuesday from the U.S. Agency for International Development soon after the quake.

The team includes firefighters, paramedics, rescue specialists, emergency room physicians, structural engineers, heavy equipment specialists, search dogs and handlers, hazardous material technicians, communications specialists and logistics experts, according to the LACFD.

The rescue team will bring with it 55,000 pounds of prepackaged search-and-rescue tools and medical equipment to conduct around the clock search and rescue operations.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles-based international aid organization Operation USA announced that it will be sending medical aid to Haiti.

The earthquake struck at 12:53 p.m. Pacific Time about 10 miles(16 kilometers) southwest of the capital of Port-au-Prince, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Thousands of people were feared killed and countless buildings collapsed in the densely populated capital city.

But authorities were unable to assess the total casualties and damage due to the post-quake chaos.

Source: Xinhua
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