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Earthquake in Japan: L.A. County team completes first day aiding recovery effort [Updated]

March 15, 2011 | 10:48 am

Los Angeles County Fire Department rescue team members search for survivors in Ofunato, Japan.

A specialized Los Angeles area search-and-rescue squad finished its first day helping the recovery effort in Japan without finding any survivors, a county fire department official said Tuesday.

The L.A. County Fire Department’s California Task Force 2 -- a 72-member team comprised of firefighters, doctors, structural engineers and search dogs -- arrived in Japan Saturday evening.

The team is focusing its efforts on Ofunato, a city of about 40,000 residents on Japan’s northeast coast hit hard by Friday’s earthquake.

“Right now they are in the process of sending out teams for reconnaissance, looking for places where they have the greatest chance of finding living individuals to rescue,” said Matt Levesque, a fire department spokesman. “They haven’t rescued anyone yet, this is just the beginning.”

Levesque said task force members are carrying radiological sensing devices that gauge levels of radiation, a concern because of the damage sustained by several Japanese nuclear plants.

“From all we have been told, they are 111 miles north of nuclear facilities in jeopardy, and the team remains upwind of [the] nuclear facility,” he said.

[For the record at 11:45 a.m.: An earlier version of this post stated that the team was 11 miles north of the nuclear facilities. The distance is 111 miles.]

Several of the rescuers went to Japan after doing the same job in New Zealand in February after the magnitude 6.3 earthquake that rocked Christchurch. Many others were part of efforts in Haiti after the island nation’s devastating temblor in 2010.

“The members of this team have had incredible experience,” Levesque said. “Haiti, New Zealand, and now Japan, these are terrible circumstances, but the teaching power and experience that will come into play from this team, if there is ever a similar disaster in Los Angeles County, it’s invaluable.”


Carrier Ronald Reagan assisting Japanese relief

California 'too far' for Japan radiation to reach, officials say

'No danger at this time,' California health officials have been reassured

-- Kurt Streeter

Photo: Los Angeles County Fire Department rescue team members search for survivors in Ofunato, Japan, four days after a powerful earthquake-triggered tsunami hit Japan's east coast. Credit: Shizuo Kambayashi / Los Angeles Times