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NYC search and rescue team awaits flight to Haiti

NYPD Deputy Inspector Robert Lukach (rt) and Police

NYPD Deputy Inspector Robert Lukach (rt) and Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly confer moments before deployment to Haiti. (January 14, 2010) Credit: Newsday/NYPD

New York City's urban search and rescue team was still awaiting a flight to Haiti Friday evening so the 80-member unit could start working in the devastated country.

Law enforcement officials said the federal government has told the group they should be on a flight later in the day.

The delay is due to the sheer volume of aid and rescue traffic flying into Haiti, which has caused a bottleneck at the country's main airport in Port-au-Prince, city officials and law enforcement sources said. The transportation problems in Haiti weren't just affecting the New York team. Officials said that as many as six urban search and rescue units around the United States were in the same predicament.

"We just want to go to work," said Deputy Insp. Robert Lukach of the NYPD, who along with FDNY Battalion Chief Joseph Downey of West Islip commands the elite unit.

The city task force packed 20 tons of supplies into trucks and traveled from a Brooklyn warehouse Thursday to Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, expecting to fly out that day. However, lack of a transport plane forced the group to spend the night in upstate Newburgh at a motel outside the airbase as the federal government worked to line up an aircraft.

One military official said privately that the more time it takes to get the rescue units into Haiti might impact the success they have in finding survivors. The priority for air transportation might then shift to bringing in medicine and food, the official said.

>>PHOTOS: Frantic rescue effort in Haiti | Deadliest recent earthquakes

>> LIVE: Twitter coverage of the scene in Haiti, from aid agencies, and reaction worldwide

>> VIDEOS: Latest videos from Haiti and on LI

>> MORE: Read more about LIers grieving and LI's efforts to help | Latest news from Haiti | Haiti's road to chaos: 2006 Newsday series



* You can help immediately by texting "HAITI" to "90999" and a donation of $10 will be charged to your cell phone bill and given automatically to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts.

* Wyclef Jean, a rapper and hip-hop artist from Haiti, urged people to text "Yele" to 501501 to donate $5 toward earthquake relief. Yéle Haiti is a grassroots movement inspiring change in Haiti through programs in education, sports, the arts and environment, according to its Web site.

* The State Department Operations Center has set up the following number for Americans seeking information about family members in Haiti: 1-888-407-4747. The Red Cross has also set up a Web site to help family members find and contact relatives.

* You can also go online to organizations such as the Red Cross and MercyCorps to make a contribution to the disaster relief efforts.

The FBI warned Internet users to be wary of e-mail messages seeking donations in the aftermath of the quake. People who want to send money or assistance should contribute to known organizations and should be careful not to respond to unsolicited e-mails, officials said.


Other Web sites accepting donations include:

-Haitian Health Foundation
-Hope for Haiti
-International Medical Corps
-Beyond Borders

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