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Experienced Team From Israel Helps Search Through Florida Condo Debris

NOEL KING, HOST:

The search teams working on rescue and recovery in Surfside, Fla., are from all over the U.S. There are also rescue workers from Mexico and from Israel. The team of Israeli Defense Forces personnel has conducted rescue and recovery operations after earthquakes in Haiti and Nepal. And in many ways, this site is like what you might see after an earthquake.

With me now is IDF Lieutenant Colonel Oz Gino. He's in Surfside this morning. Good morning, Lieutenant Colonel.

OZ GINO: Hey. Good morning. How are you?

KING: Very well. Thanks. When did you arrive in Surfside?

GINO: Yeah, actually, the delegation arrive in Sunday, and my team arrived in Monday. We here almost 84 hours. And when we landed, we go straight to the site, to the - you know, to the collapsed building. And this is about it.

KING: And what are you and your team seeing? What does it look like there, especially if you're in the position of working on rescue and recovery?

GINO: Actually, it's not a regular site. You can see, like, 12 floors that collapsed in like a pancake, OK? There is almost - there is no spaces inside there because the walls - there is no walls and floors. There is just locks (ph) - a lot of locks. And there's - all of the floors collapse, one on each other. It's very tough to us, as a delegation - as a search and rescue delegation. As you remember, might have been in a pile, but this kind of site is very, very tough. We're working around the clock, like, almost 20 - sorry, 84 hours and maybe slept several hours and doing everything to try to find people. And it doesn't matter what the situation with them - just to find them.

KING: And what is your work like on a daily or even hourly basis? What are you doing?

GINO: My job is - I am the battalion commander of Search and Rescue in the Israel Defense Force Home Front Command. Our job, it's - we're doing like - we are warriors. So we're doing, like, (unintelligible) missions, and we're ready to give search and rescue and to deal with a search and rescue situation. As you know, the situation in Israel is complicated. You can see that from two months ago in Gaza Strip. So we handle a lot of falling rockets in the home front of Israel. And our mission is saving people life. And it doesn't matter where, and it is doesn't matter when. And when we don't do this, we're training. And we're doing, like, the missions like all of the soldiers in - the warrior soldiers in Israel, like infantry and tanks and all of the divisions in the IDF.

KING: There are people waiting for news of their loved ones at that site. We've heard that from our reporters. Are you talking to them at all?

GINO: Actually, yes. I met two families down here near the hotel. They are located with us in the same hotel. Well, it's very different to us to see people, the sounds, the stories. It's really emotionally - you getting very close to the families. I mean, you know, where their families are located now in the building. And we got a lot of pictures of them, and they tell us about them, the stories - the personal stories of each one. It's very difficult to us.

KING: Yeah.

GINO: But you need to do the - you need to break. You need to do the break between your emotional feelings and your professional on the other side to focus on the site.

KING: That does make sense.

IDF Lieutenant Colonel Oz Gino. He's in Surfside this morning. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.