Elite urban rescue teams from Miami-Dade and the City of Miami are heading to Houston to help with search missions through areas flooded by Harvey.
The tropical storm continued pounding Texas with heavy rain on Sunday, and local agencies have responded to thousands of emergency calls from people stranded in cars and homes.
Miami-Dade’s specially trained 45-person team from South Florida is part of a national effort to come to the aid of Texas. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue’s Florida Task Force 1 Urban Search and Rescue Task Force will be joined by 11 other similar teams from across the country including the City of Miami Fire Rescue Urban Search and Rescue Task Force-2.
Miami’s 19-member team trained in swift water rescue and hazardous materials was set to leave from a warehouse Sunday night, traveling with various size boats, all-terrain vehicles, high-water trucks and other specialized equipment.
And more might be on the way, as the U.S. Coast Guard and other rescue teams fight through an overwhelming number of rescue in the Houston area. Forecasters are predicting rainfall from Harvey could reach 50 inches in some areas, the highest ever recorded in Texas, according to The Associated Press.
The Miami-Dade rescue team is dispatched to distant disasters, with assignments in Florida, across the country and overseas, including 2010 earthquakes in Chile and Haiti and an apartment complex collapse in Barbados in 2007.
The Texas situation, with buildings down and water levels up around street signs, is the raison d’etre for the team of firefighters-paramedics, physicians, engineers, search canines and a swift water rescue personnel. Included in their massive 60,000-pound equipment cache are devices that will allow crew members to break into steel or reinforced concrete buildings and structures, as well as listening devices and cameras for finding people needing rescue.
The Miami-Dade task force arrive with enough equipment that it can be self-sufficient for three days — with a seven-day supply of food — so it doesn’t tax already stressed resources in the Houston area.
Members of the team were expected to land late Sunday night and get to work first thing Monday morning, said Miami-Dade Fire Rescue spokesman Lt. Felipe Lay.
Miami’s team also brings enough supplies to be self-sufficient for three days and could be deployed for up to 14 days.
Miami Herald writer Carli Teproff contributed to this report.