U.S. Aid On Way To Quake Victims

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A Miami-Date County emergency response team took critical supplies to El Salvador Sunday, a day after an earthquake buried thousands of homes in the Central American nation.

The emergency aid, coordinated by the U.S. Agency for International Development, included 25,000 pounds of blankets, medical kits, drinking water and plastic tarps for makeshift shelters.

A five-member Disaster Assistance Response Team will distribute supplies and help assess damage and needs in El Salvador. The magnitude-7.6 quake Saturday left more than 250 people dead and some 1,200 missing.

"We bring in the supplies, we coordinate with authorities there," U.S. AID spokesman Chris Madison said. "People have been taken out of their homes, so what you need is water, shelter. We use plastic sheeting, you can protect people from the elements with that."

Both the supplies and emergency team are from the Miami-Dade Urban Search and Rescue Team, a 250-member group that has responded to flooding and earthquake disasters from Mexico to Turkey to Mozambique.

The specialized squad was tapped by U.S. AID last June to be the federal agency's quick-response team for countries damaged by hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters.

The emergency supplies were prepackaged and ready to go at Homestead Air Force Base south of Miami.

Another emergency team based in Costa Rica arrived in San Salvador Saturday, Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue said. Mexico was the first country to send help.

Rene Leon, El Salvador's ambassador to the U.S., said anyone wishing to assist should donate cash rather than food or clothing because of the logistical difficulties of getting the items to the stricken area.

He provided two International Red Cross numbers for those wishing to help, 1-800-HELP NOW, and for Spanish speakers, 1-800-257-7575.

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