Ohio task force on way to N.J. to help hurricane victims

Eighty members of Ohio Task Force One, an urban search and rescue team with members from the Miami Valley, were en route to New Jersey on Tuesday to assist victims of Hurricane Sandy.

The task force convoy includes up to 30 vehicles, including three tractor-trailers, three box delivery trucks, several four-wheel-drive pickup trucks, one charter bus, and a van carrying eight rescue dogs. The convoy is carrying millions of dollars worth of equipment.

The Ohio group is accompanied by 80 members of Indiana Task Force One. Two other groups, the Butler County and Ohio All Hazard State Incident Management Teams, were sent to Long Island to assist authorities there.

The task force convoy arrived in Scranton, Pa., shortly before 3 p.m. The final destination was Joint Base McGuire-Dix Lakehurst in New Jersey. The convoy was due to arrive there about 7 p.m.

Hurricane Sandy spun into the New Jersey coastline with 80-mile per hour winds on Monday, hurling a 13-foot surge of seawater at New York City. As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, the U.S. death toll was at 38, many of the victims killed by falling trees. The hurricane is also to blame for the deaths of 69 people in the Caribbean.

The task force was activated around 3:30 p.m. Monday by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The task force works for the Department of Homeland Security and takes orders from FEMA’s National Rescue Coordination Center, according to Bellbrook Fire Chief Scott Hall, public information officer for the task force.

Most of the rescuers are firefighters, but other members include structural engineers and doctors from Miami Valley Hospital and the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. Many members are from Dayton, Cincinnati and Columbus, but other members live in other parts of Montgomery, Greene, Warren, Butler, Miami, Hamilton and Franklin counties.

“Thirty percent of the team is from the Miami Valley region,” Hall said.

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