(WPRI) — Volunteers from Massachusetts and Rhode Island that left over the weekend to assist Floridians in need arrived on Monday.
The Rhode Island chapter of the American Red Cross dispatched two volunteers in an emergency response vehicle on Saturday, joining dozens of other Connecticut and Rhode Island region volunteers in Orlando.
Laura Callahan, a disaster program specialist with the Red Cross, spoke to 12 News from inside the emergency response vehicle Monday afternoon.
“It’s just out of the essence of humanitarianism, is really why we’re here,” Callahan said.
The emergency response vehicle provides supplies such as ready-to-eat meals, water and snacks, clean-up kits and more.
“A lot of people lost their vehicles, and so we’re responding to those individuals that don’t have transportation,” Callahan said. “Our vehicles are really there to not only go to the shelters and deliver items to shelters, but we also mobilize within the communities to do damage assessment or to deliver these items.”
The destruction across the state is undeniable. In the wake of Ian, Pine Island residents were left stranded after the bridge connecting the island to the main land was destroyed.
Massachusetts Task Force 1 (MATF), an urban search-and-rescue team, works under the authority of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The 45-member team left Beverly, Mass. this weekend and arrived in the area off of Fort Myers Beach Monday.
“We’re going to be conducting targeted searches to assist with Florida, as far as accounting for everybody on the island,” task force leader Anita Arnum said.
Arnum said the task force will be focusing on Pine Island. Some residents were evacuated previously, while others sheltered in place. Currently, the island is shut down to civilian traffic in both directions.
“The storm packed a powerful punch here on this area,” Arnum said. “The area of impact is fairly large.”
Arnum said the island has no electricity or fuel, and restaurants, grocery stores and hospitals are closed. She said the team brought a mobile cell tower for their own use, but she herself was only able to connect to the call for about five minutes before her service dropped.
Arnum Said the team will get their missions underway on Tuesday.
“There’s going to be some delayering that needs to be done similar to Hurricane Katrina, where there were large piles of debris,” Arnum said. “All that has to be searched through to make sure that there’s no victims.”