Seventy emergency workers from Pennsylvania are headed to Surfside, Fla., to assist with rescue operations at the collapsed Champlain Towers South building.
A convoy of trucks and buses, part of the Pennsylvania Task Force 1 (PA-TF1), was expected to begin the 1,200-mile trip around 8 p.m. Wednesday and could remain in Florida for about two weeks, according to Kathy Matheson, communications director for the Philadelphia Fire Department.
PA-TF1 is a state-based urban search-and-rescue team overseen by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Twenty-eight such organizations exist in the country. Deployed in emergencies, all members are specially trained in search and rescue. The Philadelphia Fire Department sponsors PA-TF1 and half of the team’s members are fire department personnel. The rest are first responders from across the region.
The Champlain Towers South Condominium collapsed last Thursday around 1:30 a.m. At least 16 people are confirmed dead with nearly 150 still missing.
According to an Associated Press report, work at the site north of Miami Beach has been slow and dangerous. Debris fell onto the search area overnight from the shattered edge of part of the building that still stands. Rescuers marked a “don’t go beyond here” line and had to focus their efforts on parts of the debris pile that are farther from the structure.
Kevin Guthrie of the Florida Division of Emergency Management said his agency requested additional search personnel. He said state officials want to rotate some of their teams out so they can be on hand in case of severe weather in the coming days.
PA-TF1 was deployed to New York City after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and most recently to South Carolina to assist Hurricane Florence victims in 2018, and to the Florida panhandle that year after Hurricane Michael.