Penticton’s fire chief has once again been deployed to a natural disaster zone, this time in the Bahamas.
Larry Watkinson joined a contingent of Burnaby, B.C., firefighters eager to reach some Bahamian communities devastated by hurricane Dorian to assist in rescue efforts.
The 13 firefighters are joined by four rescue dogs. The Burnaby firefighting union posted to Twitter that the members have reached Nassau and are heading to the base camp.
Watkinson told Global News the urban search and rescue team quickly mobilized in the hopes of saving lives.
“We’re getting on top of it,” Watkinson said before departing on the rescue operation. “We’re getting a quick deployment out of this to the Bahamas, so I do believe there is a great opportunity to find live people still trapped in their homes.”
The fire department said the City of Penticton is supporting Watkinson by issuing his regular paycheque.
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The team specializes in technical search, using trained dogs and electronic acoustic and seismic equipment to locate people trapped in the rubble.
Cameras and microphones are also used, allowing two-way communication for survivors to help lead crews to their location.
Watkinson was sent to northern B.C. last summer to assist with firefighting efforts in the battle against the monstrous Shovel Lake wildfire.
He was deployed to the Nechako region on behalf of the provincial government and Office of the Fire Commissioner to manage the structural protection units sent to the region from municipal departments across B.C.
Prior to that, his team headed to Nepal to help find bodies trapped in the rubble caused by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake that killed more than 7,000 people.
As for the rescue mission in the Bahamas, Watkinson is expected to return next weekend.
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The death toll in the Bahamas from hurricane Dorian has jumped to at least 43 people. It’s believed the storm has also left more than 70,000 people homeless.
The wrath of Dorian reached Atlantic Canada on Saturday, as hundreds of thousands of people lost power in Nova Scotia.
The ferocious winds caused damage, including uprooting trees, blowing off part of a roof and causing a construction crane to collapse.
Though Dorian was a Category 2 hurricane as it approached Atlantic Canada, the storm made landfall as a post-tropical cyclone at 7:15 p.m. ADT, according to Environment Canada.
There were no injuries.
—With files from Sean Boynton, Jill Bennett and Graeme Benjamin