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New York Search and Rescue Team Heads to Haiti

  • Victoria Cavaliere

A search and rescue team from New York City's police and fire departments will be helping with disaster relief in Haiti. The highly trained group will be searching for survivors in the rubble of buildings leveled by Tuesday's 7.0 earthquake.

The 80-member crew will arrive soon in Haiti (Friday night). The force, called New York Task Force One, is specially trained to deal with collapsed buildings and urban disasters. It uses search dogs and high-tech detection equipment to locate people caught in the rubble.

Task Force One is bringing 20 tons of equipment, including electronic listening devices so sensitive they can detect the sound of breathing though layers of concrete. New York Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano says the group is eager to help and among the best trained in the world. "This is all rescue personnel. All special operations people. They will be doing concrete removal. They will be breaking up concrete. They will be doing void searches. They will be doing confined space searches. The most highly trained people in the country and we are really confident they are going to make a difference when they go down there," he said.

Task Force One will join thousands of rescuers from around the world that descended on Haiti this week to assist in rescue efforts following Tuesday's earthquake that has left at least 50-thousand people dead. Thousands more are unaccounted for.

New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly acknowledged that the work will be extremely difficult. "All reports are that casualties will be very, very high. The major problem. I just came back from Haiti on Saturday, and I can tell you that the infrastructure simply isn't there in the best of times, and to cope with a catastrophe like us will be very, very difficult for all the workers who are responding," he said.

The New York Police Department has a long-standing relationship with Haiti. Recently, a team of officers went to Port-au-Prince to help train local police in crime-fighting.