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U.S. teams cut back Iran rescue missions

U.S. physicians and a rescue crew trained to search for survivors amid the wreckage of terrorist attacks and natural disasters headed to Iran to help in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake.
/ Source: The Associated Press

About half the members of the Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue team dispatched to help recover victims of the Iranian earthquake will not be needed and a California team also will not be going, U.S. officials said Sunday.

Instead, 32 members of the Virginia Task Force One — which was on the ground in Spain late Sunday — will return home immediately.

The 74-member team left Dover Air Force Base at 12:45 a.m. Sunday and stopped in Spain to refuel. While on the ground, the decision was made to have only 42 team members continue on to Iran, said Portia Palmer of the U.S. Agency for International Development, which is sponsoring the mission.

Palmer said information from international agencies already on the ground in Iran, as well as the Iranian government, indicated that the major effort to find survivors will end in the next 24 hours.

A 73-member California search-and-rescue team made up mostly of Los Angeles County firefighters had its mission to Iran scrubbed Sunday after Iranian officials told their U.S. counterparts they did not require the heavy rescue expertise of the California team, said Terry DeJournett, a Los Angeles County fire battalion chief.

“We’re to stand down,” DeJournett said Sunday.

“Clearly they need the medical supplies, clearly they need the medical assistance, but in terms of the actual search and rescue, they had so many teams pour in from different countries, that’s something they told us they really didn’t need, another team,” Palmer said.

Of the 42 Fairfax team members going to Iran, 10 will stay for an extended time. The remaining 32 will stay only long enough to set up the base of operations for the U.S. government aid team on the ground before returning to the U.S., Palmer said.

Those to remain in Iran include a troop commander, an operations specialist, two structural specialists, two medical experts, one planning expert, a technical information coordinator, a logistics expert, and a rescue specialist. No dog teams will be sent.

Palmer said the 32 team members currently waiting in Spain to come home will leave as soon as a plane can be found to bring them home.