MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Search and rescue teams from South Florida are headed to the Bahamas to do their part in finding victims of Hurricane Dorian.
The teams were not activated by the federal government. Instead, it’s the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County who are sending them.
Fifteen members of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue’s Florida Task Force 1 Urban Search and Rescue spent the morning packing their gear at their headquarters in Doral.
They had been sent to Puerto Rico ahead of Hurricane Dorian but were then sent to Orlando ahead of the expected storm impact to the state.
After getting geared up, they headed to Fort Lauderdale where they board the ferry The Balearia, a ship that normally carries passengers from Fort Lauderdale to and from the island which has been turned into a relief supply carrier.
Once they land in the islands, they will conduct search and rescue operations and real-time assessment.
“The destruction is very hard to describe,” said battalion chief Brandon Webb.
First responders with Miami’s Urban Search and Rescue also deployed to the Bahamas. They will head to the island in three phases, the first of which will be a real-time assessment of the situation on the ground and then they will escalate resources as needed for search and rescue.
“It’s horrific the images are terrible,” said assistant fire chief Robery Hevia, “We really feel a lot of pressure to get over there and help.”
The firefighters were riding with heartbreak, lots of passengers, many Bahamians like Donald Hield who loaded up a suitcase to take what he could to get home to see his family.
“Basically their house is full of water up to the ceiling, they lost everything, floors, basically everything, basically have just the clothes they have on their back,” he said.
Juanita Lightbourne and her sister came to Miami days ahead of Dorian for a medical procedure, they’re not sure what they’re going back to.
“My daughter she called my sister and told my sister to tell me don’t come back home,” said Lightbourne.
Another man broke down, saying he was still trying to reach his family near Freeport.
“You don’t have no water, food, that’s crazy,” said Charles Martin.
At 9 a.m. they departed, relief was on the way and rescuers were planning where to begin.
“Our initial intent is to go and do an evaluation and assessment of what their needs are,” said Miami Fire Chief Joseph Zahralban.
Twenty five additional team members from Miami-Dade are expected to depart for the Bahamas on Sunday.