Los Angeles search and rescue team returns from Turkey after earthquake End-shutdown

Los Angeles search and rescue workers have returned from Turkey after spending weeks helping in the aftermath of the region’s massive earthquake, which killed tens of thousands of people and displaced hundreds of thousands more.

More than 80 members of the Los Angeles County Fire Department were dispatched on February 6 as part of the US Agency for International Development’s Disaster Response Team, which included a search and rescue team from Fairfax , Virginia, after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Turkey and northern Syria that day.

Crews from Los Angeles County and Virginia are the only crews of their kind in the country that qualify under the USAID program to assist in international disaster response.

“DART led the effort to search for survivors in Adiyaman [Turkey] and surrounding areas through the use of sensitive cameras, listening devices, search and rescue canines and other specialized equipment,” the Los Angeles County Fire Department said in a press release Tuesday announcing the return of the team.

The team assessed more than 6,000 buildings, including hospitals and homes, inspecting dozens of structures a day to determine if they were safe for residents to return inside.

“It’s a huge psychological challenge,” Joshua Svensson, a civil engineer with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works who was posted to the region, recently told The Times. “It’s a big responsibility, but we will go to these houses and say: ‘I would sleep here.’ Giving people that peace of mind is a big deal.”

They also carried out man hours of tunneling work in buildings where they detected signs of life and consulted with local personnel about rescue attempts.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department also deployed seven members of its search and rescue program, who arrived in Turkey on February 10, according to a End-shutdown release.

They worked mainly in Antakya, in Hatay province, one of the regions hardest hit by the quake, which has killed more than 47,000 people in the two countries. The workers returned to the United States on February 15.

Mike Leum, deputy chief of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, has been a search and rescue reserve deputy for 30 years.

“It was a week of triumph and tragedy,” Leum said. The team, he said, rescued three people: a 52-year-old mother and her 18-year-old son, as well as a 17-year-old boy. “There were deceased people, but having three living finds was worth it,” she said.

The Sheriff’s Department search and rescue team worked with about 150 other people from Turkey and other countries, Leum said.

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