Rescue teams grounded


US priorities at airport mean Canadian search-and-rescue are grounded
Sunday, January 17
(from Roger Annis, Haiti Solidarity BC)
This morning, a CBC Radio One Vancouver news report says that Canada has told its emergency rescue teams to stand down. The government says the directive comes from the UN agency responsible in Haiti. The report is probably based on the article below, which appears, I think, in today's print edition of the Toronto Star.
Team members in Vancouver expressed great frustration with the decision yesterday. A few days ago, CBC Radio reported that the city of Vancouver was concerned about releasing emergency workers for Haiti because some may then not be on hand for the Olympics, due to open in three weeks.

Earthquake rescue teams remain grounded in Canada
Specially trained search-and-rescue teams not deployed to Haiti
The Toronto Star
As the hunt for survivors continues amid the rubble of Port-au-Prince, five fully equipped search-and-rescue teams specially trained to rescue people from collapsed buildings in the aftermath of an earthquake, remain grounded in Canada.
The country's Heavy Urban Search and Rescue (HUSAR) teams - located in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Halifax and Manitoba, are all waiting patiently for the call to help in Haiti.
But so far no call has come.
"We have a membership that lives and breathes this type of scenario. We are itching to go," Coby Duerr, the leader of Calgary's unit, told the Calgary Herald. "It is what we do."
Attempts to reach the head of Toronto's unit, Doug Silver, were unsuccessful.
The country's HUSAR teams are made up of firefighters, paramedics and police officers, who volunteer for the specialized training and are ready to be deployed in a matter of hours in case of emergency both at home and abroad.
"HUSAR teams locate trapped persons in collapsed structures and other entrapments using specially trained dogs and electronic search equipment," states Public Safety Canada's website. "The teams breach, shore, lift and remove structural components, use heavy construction equipment to remove debris, and medically treat and transfer victims.
Several countries, including the U.S., the Netherlands, Poland, Ecuador and Russia, have already sent their search-and-rescue teams and structural collapse specialists.
Toronto Mayor David Miller said the city has advised the federal government that Toronto's HUSAR team stands "ready to assist" if required.
Public Safety Canada runs the HUSAR program, but a spokesman for the agency said Foreign Affairs makes the decision on whether or not a unit will be sent abroad.
Foreign Affairs says they have offered Toronto's HUSAR team and other specially trained personnel to the United Nations' coordinated relief mission in Haiti.
"They will let Canada know when those services are required," said Lisa Monette, a spokeswoman for the department.
There is limited capacity at the airport in Port-au-Prince, Monette said, and the UN must prioritize its resources.
"We need them to tell us that this is a priority. The offer has been made on behalf of Canada."
But with each day, the search-and-rescue team's usefulness decreases. Sunday will be five days since the earthquake, at which time the survival rate for those rescued drops to 7 per cent.
"We are starting to shift from urgent search and rescue to humanitarian response and stabilization efforts," Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon told reporters Saturday morning.
Monette said the cost of transporting a HUSAR team - and their specialized equipment - is not the reason they haven't been deployed.
"If the request is made, then the decision will be made in terms of who would go," she said, adding that several police departments in Canada have also offered to send officers to the mission.



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