9/5/2005 12:00 AM
COLLEGE STATION -- Texas Task Force 1 evacuated 420 people from flooded homes near downtown New Orleans on Sunday, as both the water rescue and urban search and rescue teams continued operations in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
The 41-member water strike team rescued 300 people on Sunday, in addition to 138 rescues performed Saturday near downtown New Orleans. Meanwhile, Texas Task Force 1’s 80-member urban search and rescue team is searching for survivors in homes and apartment buildings in downtown New Orleans. They worked with U.S. Coast Guard helicopter crews to rescue 120 people on Sunday, most from rooftops. Some people encountered by the team still refuse to leave their homes.
Task Force personnel have been involved in more than 4,000 rescues since Katrina’s landfall on Aug. 29, and report that the people of New Orleans continue to be extremely appreciative of their efforts. No injuries have been sustained by Texas Task Force 1 members during rescue operations despite challenging conditions.
“Obviously they’re tired, but once they’re in the game and out there rescuing people, they’re putting maximum effort into things,” Billy Parker, leader of the water rescue team for Texas Task Force 1, told the Bryan-College Station Eagle on Sunday. He said Texas Task Force 1 members are well-prepared to handle the rescue situations they have encountered because of extensive training through sponsoring agency Texas Engineering Extension Service, a member of The Texas A&M University System.
Texas Task Force 1 is leading one of the five groups of FEMA urban search and rescue teams working in New Orleans, which includes teams from Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, New Mexico and Tennessee, as well as water rescue squads from California.
Texas Task Force 1 has a total of 123 members working in response to Katrina, including personnel as part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) incident support team in New Orleans and the Texas State Operations Center in Austin.