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Los Angeles firefighters to join rescue efforts in Turkey and Syria after massive quake

Rescuers search for victims and survivors in the rubble of buildings, a day after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the country's southeast, in Diyarbakir on Feb. 7, 2023.    (Ilyas Akengin/AFP/Getty Images North America/TNS)
By Grace Toohey Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES – Dozens of specially trained Los Angeles County firefighters are headed to Turkey and Syria to assist in search-and-rescue operations after Monday’s massive magnitude-7.8 earthquake, which devastated the region near the two countries’ border.

The crew of more than 80 members is one of two from the U.S. being sent to help in the aftermath of the quake. The other is from Fairfax County in Virginia.

The U.S. Agency for International Development deployed the two urban search-and-rescue teams to aid in the response to the destructive earthquake and its aftershocks, which included a 7.5 temblor. At least 4,000 have died, and thousands of buildings have toppled. The casualty count is only expected to grow as first responders continue to sort through wreckage at scenes of mass destruction that stretch miles beyond the quake’s epicenter in southeast Turkey.

Los Angeles County is sending 81 search-and-rescue crew members, along with six search dogs and three structural engineers, officials said Monday evening.

“These two teams will be part of the USAID DART [Disaster Assistance Response Team] and will coordinate with Turkish authorities and other responding organizations to provide life-saving assistance,” USAID Administrator Samantha Power said in a statement Monday.

The earthquake’s epicenter was in Turkey’s southeastern province of Kahramanmaras, which is about 160 miles from its border with war-torn Syria, a country already facing a humanitarian refugee crisis as its 12-year civil war rages on.

Anthony Marrone, the interim fire chief for L.A. County, said the two teams could be on the ground for two weeks, if not longer.

“This team is highly skilled and elite in urban search and rescue,” Marrone said, and specifically trained in earthquake response.