- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 13, 2001

Rescue workers clawing through the ash and scoured concrete at the Pentagon and former World Trade Center towers face situations they have never faced before, a federal official says.

"This is unlike hurricane debris. This is concrete and hazardous material that requires a [higher degree of] special handling. And this is huge. In New York, we're confronting the equivalent of ruins from a 285-story building or 28 10-story buildings. This is a massive effort. We've never had to deal with anything of this magnitude or degree," Bruce Baughman, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Planning and Operations Division, said yesterday.

In fact, each of the towers contained some 130,000 tons of steel that rescuers must cut through and maneuver around while trying not to dislodge debris that could injure trapped victims. Then too, it's conceivable that some of the 17 neighboring buildings that were hit by rubble from the twin towers might have been weakened.

Fire department specialists said the Pentagon presented unusual challenges because of the way it was designed. It has a "compartment structure" that helps contain fires. But the design and the immensity of the building at times make it difficult to maneuver rescuers to search areas.

Mr. Baughman reported that "the nature of the blasts" in New York created special technical problems there, yet it could have created the opportunity to save lives.

He explained that since the twin towers were hit at the top, they crumbled in a way that allows the creation of "voids" or spaces where victims possibly can survive and be rescued. Consequently, its possible that Trade Center victims could last for as long as "nine or 10 days" and be recovered.

Mr. Baughman pointed out that following the ground-level attack on the federal building in Oklahoma City and in other ground-level blasts no survivors were found.

Currently, 26 federal agencies and 3,000 federal workers are involved in the rescue efforts at New York and Virginia. Twelve special Urban Search and Rescue task forces are on the scene or en route to the areas.

By yesterday morning, four rescue task forces were at the Pentagon and four were in New York with four more en route to New York. There are three Disaster Mortuary Teams and four Medical Assistance Teams in New York and one Mortuary Team and two Medical Assistance Teams at the Pentagon.

Each of the special rescue task forces has 62 members made up of specially trained firefighters, police, doctors, paramedics, engineers, hazardous-materials specialists and, among other team members, dogs trained to locate survivors and cadavers.

John Eversole, of the International Association of Fire Chiefs and a former Chicago Fire Department terrorism specialist, said each of the rescue teams carries with it special optical sensors, cameras, lights, sound-sensing devices and other special equipment for working in confined spaces.

The huge cranes, front loaders, and giant construction machines at the sites come from private contractors. Cities with emergency management plans typically have standing arrangements for companies to provide such equipment as needed, Mr. Eversole notes.

Aside from such machinery, each rescue task force carries with it $1.4 million worth of equipment, weighing some 60,000 pounds — enough to fill one of the military's huge C-141 transport jets.

But, said Mr. Eversole, each rescue team member "also carries with him incredible pressure — the intense desire to plunge in and work as quickly as possible. Despite the tension, that drive must be repressed. Unless the rescuers work gently and methodically and with utmost caution, they may kill the people they came to save and endanger their colleagues and themselves."

Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani said yesterday that on Tuesday night it took 120 dump trucks to clear the initial load of detritus from Manhattan's streets. He estimated it would take weeks to clear the area.

FEMA officials estimate the rescue operation in New York alone will last between 30 and 60 days.


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