With 95 percent of the primary search of New Orleans completed, Missouri Task Force I moved into the suburb of Challmette on Sunday, according to Fire Chief Steve Paulsell.
Task Force 1, alongside Tennessee’s Task Force and a swift-water rescue team from California, used Chinook and Black Hawk helicopters to rescue victims. Assistant Chief Doug Westhoff of the Boone County Fire Protection District was the division commander and coordinated land, sea and air operations, Paulsell said. Reports from the area said that on average five helicopters were landing and unloading victims every five minutes at the base of operations.
“Assistant Chief Olsen was telling me that the building they’re working in — the instant support teams — have aircraft over them all the time,” Paulsell said. “The building never stops vibrating. That’s a good indicator we’re moving a lot of people to the staging area.”
While no orders have been issued to send a second team, Task Force I is prepared. Rosters have already been made for additional support teams and equipment has been prepared in case it is needed. Although Task Force I is primarily a search and rescue team, it is prepared to aid health workers in recovery operations even after the search and rescue operations have been called off.
“We’re very flexible, and we have a lot of people who are willing to help however they can,” Paulsell said. “It looks at this point that we as an urban search and rescue system could be involved in this activity for the foreseeable weeks and, potentially, months.”