EMSWORLD reports that 54 rescuers—27 each from Riverside County and Los Angeles County teams—took off from March Air Reserve Base near Riverside over the weekend for Puerto Rico, where Hurricane Maria has killed at least 10 people, including two police officers who drowned in floodwaters.
The most recent danger in Puerto Rico has been mudslides, said Robert Harris, special operations chief for the Los Angeles County Fire Department and head of the Los Angeles County group headed to Puerto Rico.
The smaller teams headed to Puerto Rico on Saturday’s flight are able to rapidly respond to those and other challenges, Harris said. He said larger teams with heavier equipment were deployed earlier.
L.A. County firefighters had also previously been sent to Mexico to help victims of that country’s earthquake.
Saturday’s flight was also the second team sent by Riverside County rescuers; previously, a seven-person, four-dog K-9 task force was sent to Puerto Rico in anticipation of destruction from Hurricane Irma—but then remained in the U.S. territory to help when Hurricane Maria hit.
According to the report, in preparation for the trip, both the Riverside County and the Los Angeles County teams have taken military classes on packing. Each team was bringing four boats with them: two inflatable and two aluminum.
Dr. Deepak Chandwani, an emergency room doctor at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton said, “Heat and dehydration will be the main health concerns for team members. Also on the list of worries: Zika virus, Dengue fever, and rodent-carried diseases.”
As of today (Thursday, 9/28), the government of Puerto Rico says the death toll from Hurricane Maria on the island is now 16, and that brings the overall toll across the Caribbean to 49 lives lost.
Meantime, Pres Trump has announced that he would temporarily waive a century-old shipping law for Puerto Rico that officials there said was hindering disaster relief efforts after Hurricane Maria.
The waiver of the law, known as the Jones Act, comes as federal and local officials report more supplies trickling onto the increasingly desperate island. The Jones Act, formally the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, is an obscure federal law that prohibits foreign ships from shuttling goods between U.S. ports, specifically the U.S. mainland and outlying states or territories.
It was created by Sen. Wesley Jones of Washington, and when it was enacted, it was meant to bolster and promote shipping from U.S.-owned, operated and built ships.