MEXICO BEACH, FLA. (FOX19) - Members of Ohio Task Force 1 are searching for survivors amid piles of rubble on Mexico Beach in the wake of Hurricane Michael.
“This is a critical effort for the recovery of the area,” said Phil Sinewe, spokesman for the statewide urban search and water rescue team made up of 16 local first responders. "The residents of the Florida Panhandle have many obstacles to overcome, and our team’s contribution to that recover should make all of us proud.”
Ohio Task Force 1 was deployed last week to Florida in response to the U.S.'s third most intense Atlantic hurricane to make landfall.
At least 46 deaths has been attributed to the Category 4 storm, according to the latest counts, including 31 in the U.S. and 15 in Central America.
Insurance losses are estimated to be at least $8 billion.
Ohio Task Force 1 crews including three K-9 teams will remain in Mexico Beach Thursday, according to Sinewe.
Mexico Beach, located on Florida’s northwestern coast, was nearly obliterated by the hurricane. FEMA’s administrator has said the community “took the brunt” of Hurricane Michael and is “probably ground zero."
The K-9 team safely arrived Tuesday morning and immediately joined search efforts.
The three K-9s are Human Remain Detection (HDR) and are certified both federally and locally, Sinewe said.
“This K-9 search capability is a unique resource that OH-TF1 offers,” he said. "....They are not only a valuable asset to the federal system, but they are a vast resource for local rescuers in Ohio.
“The team also offers a unique advantage, in that, they can deploy for search needs as a small three to five person team, not requiring activation of additional OH-TF1 assets to function in the field," said Sinewe.