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L.A. rescuers expect to leave tonight for quake-devastated Haiti

January 13, 2010 |  5:31 pm
A specialized rescue team from Los Angeles is at March Air Force Base in Riverside County and is expected to leave tonight for earthquake-ravaged Haiti, officials said.

The heavy rescue task force from the Los Angeles County Fire Department is expected to depart on a military transport aircraft about 9 p.m. and fly directly to Port-au-Prince, which apparently suffered the brunt of the 7.0 magnitude quake that struck Tuesday, according to officials.

"Their primary objective will be search and rescue," said Fire Department Inspector Matt Levesque, who was with the unit at the base.

The airport at Port-au-Prince was reported to be usable, even though the control tower was damaged,  officials said.

The 72-member team includes paramedics, emergency room physicians, structural engineers, search dogs and firefighters trained in combing through collapsed structures with sophisticated detection devices to find victims trapped in rubble.

Once in Haiti, the task force will coordinate with disaster officials who are surveying the widespread damage. The goal will be to focus on collapsed structures where victims had the best chance of surviving, Levesque said.

"A lot of what they do is going to be determined through reconnaissance when they are on the ground," he said.

-- Robert J. Lopez