COLLEGE STATION — Less than 12 hours after rescuing more than 150 patients stranded in a hospital and nursing home in downtown New Orleans Thursday evening, Texas Task Force 1 was back in action Friday conducting search and rescue operations in the floodwaters left behind by Hurricane Katrina.
Texas Task Force 1’s 80-member urban search and rescue team and 41-member water rescue team spent Friday evacuating residents from homes and apartment complexes throughout the downtown New Orleans area. More than 20 water rescues were reported at 3 p.m. by water Task Force Leader Billy Parker.
After suspending activities for most of Thursday due to isolated incidents of civil unrest in New Orleans that were unrelated to the team’s activities, Texas Task Force 1 is now operating under National Guard and local law enforcement protection. Parker and urban search and rescue Assistant Task Force Leader Jeff Saunders report that the teams are safe as they work and have not sustained any injuries despite the challenging conditions throughout the week.
Late Thursday evening, Texas Task Force 1’s urban search and rescue team led a mission into the city to evacuate 65 patients — along with 2 pet rabbits — from a New Orleans nursing home. The mission was the only one completed by FEMA urban search and rescue teams yesterday.
The water rescue team evacuated 140 people from a hospital in downtown New Orleans. The first two floors of the hospital were under water, according to Parker.
The urban search and rescue team and water rescue squad spent the earlier portion of Thursday day resting, rehabilitating equipment and assisting other FEMA Task Forces with logistics. Additionally, Texas Task Force 1 assisted with several local missions on Thursday, such as checking on nursing homes and hospitals for basic needs such as water and medical supplies.
Texas Task Force 1 has combined with other response agencies to rescue more than 1,500 people from Katrina’s floodwaters throughout the week. 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.