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Puerto Rico relief efforts in Miami (CBS Miami)

From emergency personnel to donations, massive effort underway to help Puerto Rico

South Florida is once again rallying to our family and friends in Puerto Rico.

A group of first responders from the South Florida Task Force 2 spent much of last night packing up more than 90 pounds of equipment bound for Puerto Rico.

Scott Dean, the chief of special operations, touched down on the island just before light Wednesday morning.

“We have 45 personnel which is made up of structural engineers. We have live find canines, human remains find canines, rescue specialists, hazmat, technical planners and more,” he said. “We come fully prepared to be self-sufficient and handle whatever we can, we come across.”

The group, mostly made up of City of Miami firefighters, is helping the U.S. territory after a series of strong earthquakes and aftershocks.

They are prepared to spend up to two weeks or even longer in the hardest-hit areas.

“Our biggest concern is that if we’re searching a structure and there’s an aftershock and the structure is weakened, it could potentially collapse on civilians or the rescuers inside as well,” said Dean.

The island’s seismic network said those aftershocks are happening on three faults and it’s unclear when they’ll stop or might even get stronger.

Luis DeRosa, president of Puerto Rico’s chamber of commerce, has been in touch with officials on the island constantly from his Miami office.

“I commend the governor, Wanda Vazquez, for closing schools for one week not knowing that on Tuesday Puerto Rico experienced a 6.2 earthquake, damaging and destroying schools throughout the south,” DeRosa said.

People are taking no chances, many are sleeping outside. Tents are needed among many other things, but officials are still assessing exactly what’s needed now most.

“We need volunteers down the road. We need donations, cash, transportation to deliver the goods,” DeRosa said. “Puerto Rico needs a lot of help. More than anything else we need prayers as well.”

And the psychological effect is tough as well. Experts said the people of Puerto Rico will need professional counseling down the road after this, yet another, catastrophic event happens in their homeland.

For more info on how you can help, visit PueroRicanChamber.org.

Author: LISA PETRILLO, CBS Miami
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