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NYC team rescues 4 from rubble in Haiti

January 17, 2010 3:38:43 PM PST
A joint NYPD-FDNY team on Sunday rescued a 58-year-old man trapped since Tuesday in the rubble of a four-story building on Rue Belencourt in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. They used a rescue camera to locate him, and then NYPD paramedic Det. Randin Miller climbed into a narrow space with the trapped man to start an intravenous fluid line to combat the victim's dehydration.

Simultaneously, rescuers used jackhammers and cutting tools to free the man from the wreckage.

He had been trapped in what had been the third floor of the building since Tuesday.

The man was lifted from the debris, suffering from dehydration but otherwise not seriously injured.

Earlier, the same NYPD/FDNY team pulled two adult males and a teenage girl alive from the rubble of a grocery store housed in a three-story building that collapsed in Tuesday's earthquake in Port-au-Prince.

The three victims were removed to a United Nations hospital established at Haiti's airport about five miles away, where the girl, about 13, was treated for leg injuries and the two men for undetermined injuries.

A total of 26 New York City police and fire rescuers worked through the night to extricate the three.

Sixteen of the NYPD/FDNY team were also initially deployed to assist in ongoing rescue efforts at the scene of a hotel collapse. But when they arrived, they were re-directed to the trapped man in the building on Rue Belencourt.

The NYPD/FDNY team is bivouacked at the airport in tents they brought with them. They also brought with them their own generators, portable showers, assorted rescue gear and food and water.

Members of the search-and-rescue team have also assisted at ground zero and in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Gustav.

The New York City team arrived in Port-au-Prince on Saturday after a two-day wait for clearance to land at the destroyed city's overloaded airport.

They are using technology that has been improved since the Sept. 11 attacks.

Before leaving, deputy police inspector Robert Lukach, who serves in the New York Police Department's elite Emergency Services Unit, said he was more optimistic about finding survivors in Haiti than he was at ground zero.

"That quickly became a recovery mission. But this is still a rescue mission, and we are hoping for the best," he said.

He said that even days after the quake, he is hopeful there are pockets in the rubble where people may still be alive, although the crew was worried they would arrive too late, after too much waiting around.

The team, which plans to spend at least a week in Haiti, is one of 28 federal urban search and rescue teams around the United States that can mobilize during a disaster.

They have brought three tractor-trailers full of equipment, including sound gear to listen for survivors trapped below wreckage, cutting tools that can smash through concrete and shore up rubble as they burrow down, and rescue dogs.

"We can be more prepared for this because we're going in with more knowledge," Lukach said.

The cataclysmic earthquake rocked the impoverished island nation Tuesday. The Red Cross estimates that 45,000 to 50,000 people were killed. As humanitarian aid and troops have arrived from around the globe, the focus has already begun to shift to getting aid to survivors.

The team, made of 40 NYPD officers and 40 from the fire department, receives extensive training in structural collapse, concrete collapses and trench rescues, as well as high-angle and water rescues.

They regularly deal with structural collapses in New York.

The team hit the ground in Port-au-Prince with enough food, water and masks to keep them sustained for 72 hours as they work down into the mass of rubble.

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Some information from The Associated Press


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