USAID sending task force to Japan to help rescue work

12:21, March 12, 2011      

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The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is sending a task force to Japan to assist in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in that country, authorities announced on Friday.

The task force will be made up of Los Angeles County Fire Department firefighters and paramedics, along with emergency room physicians, structural engineers, heavy equipment specialists, hazardous materials technicians, and communications and logistics specialists, county fire Capt. Ed Lozano said.

The task force immediately began mobilizing at the U.S. Army Reserve facility in Pacoima, Los Angeles and was poised to fly out of Los Angeles International Airport Friday night, according to Lozano.

The orders were expected to be issued this afternoon, contingent on factors that include the arrangements to land in Japan, Lozano said.

The highly specialized task force, which draws from a pool of about 140 qualified members, recently completed an assistance mission in quake-ravaged New Zealand.

Some of those firefighters will be activated for duty in Japan, but others will be drawn from the reserve pool, Lozano said.

About 75 specially trained personnel will make up the Japan task force, which will include a swiftwater rescue component, said Lozano.

They travel as a self-contained unit, including food and water, he said.

Besides the task force, California is ready to provide any assistance, Governor Jerry Brown said.

"Our thoughts are with the people of Japan as they endure this tragedy. I have directed California's Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA) to make state resources available to the Japanese government, and we stand ready to assist them," Brown said.

Cal EMA has been on full alert since early this morning, he said.

Brown also said tsunami warnings were issued for the state's coastal areas.

"I urge Californians living in affected areas to follow all instructions from state and federal response agencies," he said.

Source: Xinhua

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