US sends search-and-rescue team to Mexico, widening footprint in era of disasters

Story highlights

  • The team in Mexico City, which arrived Thursday morning, includes 67 people and nine canines
  • The experts on the team come from the Los Angeles County Fire Department's Urban Search and Rescue Team

New York (CNN)The US government has deployed a team of search-and-rescue specialists to Mexico City to assist with recovery efforts there, bringing the number of forward-positioned US disaster assistance teams to nearly unprecedented levels.

Six Disaster Assistance Response Teams, also known as DARTs, are now in place around the globe, engaged in everything from hurricane relief efforts in the Caribbean to post-ISIS stabilization efforts in Syria and Iraq.
"That has only happened once before (in 2015)," USAID Administrator Mark Green told reporters Thursday.
    "We can do it," he added. "It does begin to push us, obviously, but part of my commitment is to making sure that we have the resources that we need for these kinds of challenges."
    The team in Mexico City, which arrived Thursday morning, includes 67 people and nine canines. They bring with them over 62,000 pounds of specialized tools and medical equipment, according to USAID.
    The experts in the unit come from the Los Angeles County Fire Department's Urban Search and Rescue Team, Green noted, and have "specialized training" to assist with urgently needed rescue and recovery efforts.
    "It's obviously heartrending to see the images that we are," said Green, referring to widely seen videos of rescue workers scrambling to pull survivors from collapsed buildings. "And God willing, we'll see more progress in terms of extracting survivors and doing what we can to help them."
    The 7.1 magnitude earthquake that hit Mexico City on Tuesday is just the latest in a string of deadly natural disasters that have pounded the Western Hemisphere over the last month. It followed an 8.1 magnitude earthquake off Mexico's southern coast earlier this month, as well as Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria.
    The confirmed death toll for the latest earthquake topped 250 Thursday as search-and-rescue operations continued throughout the city.
    Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson offered his condolences to the people of Mexico and the Caribbean and noted the strain these disasters are having on the region.
    "Obviously this succession of massive hurricanes in the Caribbean are really testing the will and the spirit of the people that live in that area," he said, "and it's also testing our response capabilities."
    But both Tillerson and Green stressed that the Trump administration is committed to continuing to provide disaster relief, and that the White House has made providing earthquake assistance to Mexico a priority.