Seventy-nine specially trained members of the California Task Force 7 are waiting deployment from Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield to conduct search and rescue operations in earthquake-devastated Haiti.
The Task Force members include firefighters from the Sacramento area, the Task Force’s plans manager Niko King said. They hope to depart within 12 hours but the airport at Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, is backed up with search and rescue and relief missions arriving from all over the world, King said.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency in Washington, D.C., will give the order to depart, King said.
“The delay is on the other end. They have to find a window of opportunity to fly in. We got a call at 11 p.m. Wednesday to report to Travis,” King said late this afternoon.
The Touissaint L’Ouverture International Airport was reported overloaded and the Federal Aviation Administration reportedly was halting all civilian flights from the United States at Haiti’s request.
The airport’s control tower was reportedly destroyed in the 7.0 magnitude quake that struck Tuesday. The International Red Cross estimates at least 50,000 people were killed.
California Task Force 7 will depart in at least two aircraft with search and rescue tools and vehicles, search dogs, doctors and structural specialists as well as the firefighters.
The search and rescue equipment includes tools to cut and move concrete, heavy rigging equipment, sound detectors and cameras that can fit into the small spaces of crumbled buildings.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced Tuesday that California Task Force 2’s 70-member Urban Search and Rescue Team comprised of firefighters from Los Angeles County was dispatched to aid the quake victims.
The team also includes rescue specialists, emergency room physicians, structural engineers, heavy equipment operators, canine search dogs, hazardous materials technicians, communications specialists and logistics specialists.