WASHINGTON — More than a dozen members of an elite search and rescue team from Virginia have arrived in Texas to assist with the response to Hurricane Harvey.
In a video posted online, Chuck Ryan, assistant chief with Fairfax County’s fire department, said that 14 water rescue specialists arrived Tuesday in Texas.
The rescuers are members of the county’s search and rescue team, also known as Virginia Task Force 1, which deploys around the world to respond to natural disasters.
There are 28 such teams that operate under the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“They arrived in San Antonio,” Ryan explained. “Originally their destination was Houston, but due to the dynamic and changing conditions presented by the flooding down there and the constant rain, a decision was made by the federal partners to have the team held back a little bit.”
Another search and rescue team from the D.C. area deployed in Texas is from Montgomery County, Maryland.
Maryland Task Force 1 has about 20 members helping Harvey victims and is one of only a handful of teams that has specialized equipment for hazardous materials.
“In a flooding situation, there’s a lot of contamination,” said Pete Piringer, spokesman for Montgomery County’s fire department. “The hazmat team will assist urban search and rescue teams with the hazardous things that they come across.”
According to Piringer, this is the first time since the Sept. 11 terror attacks that all 28 of FEMA’s search and rescue teams have been deployed at the same time.
Federal and local agencies said they have rescued more than 13,000 people in the Houston area as well as in surrounding cities and counties in Southeast Texas since Harvey inundated the area with torrential rain.
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said his agency rescued about 4,100 people, while the city’s fire chief Samuel Peña said his department rescued more than 3,000.
The Harris County Sheriff’s Office reports rescuing more than 3,000 people. Houston is located in Harris County.
U.S. Coast Guard officials said they also rescued more than 3,000 individuals.