MIAMI GARDENS, FLA. (WSVN) - Help continues to arrive from across the state as Southwest Florida grapples with the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.
Miami-Dade Police officers gathered at the Hard Rock Stadium, located in Miami Gardens, as they prepared to head over to Fort Myers Beach, Wednesday morning.
Residents of the city got the worse of the storm, as winds and storm surges from Hurricane Ian demolished homes and businesses, but many teams and volunteers have been helping them.
Director Freddy Ramirez III wanted the people affected by the natural disaster to know the department stands with them.
“We want them to know that Miami-Dade is here and we hear them and we will be there for the long haul of this process. This recovery is going to take a long time,” said Ramirez. “We’re sending roughly 57 officers, but they’re going in two different contingents with two different missions.”
The first group, MDPD’s Rapid Deployment Force, specializes in tactical response and is on the ready with equipment to help.
Ramirez said the team has plenty of tools for the journey.
These 26 Miami-Dade Police officers will also bring their cruisers with them to Southwest Florida to help officers already there respond to calls if needed.
The second set of sworn officers is made of volunteers known as the Police Officer Assistance Trust (POAT), and they will offer aid solely to the first responders.
The President of the South Florida Police Benevolent Association (PBA), MDPD Sgt. Steadman Stahl said all departments are one as they come together to assist crews in the affected areas.
“Doesn’t matter what your patch is or your badge is — we’re all one and going to be part of being one and stand as a group,” said Stahl.
These officers will be deployed for at least one week to reevaluate the need, as these first responders work around the clock to carry out relief and rescue missions.
“Those people right now are at their lowest in the field, but in the long run, it’s all going to work itself out, and we will come back from this. We will recover,” said Stahl.
Over 1,600 people were already rescued from Hurricane Ian’s path in parts of Southwest and Central Florida. Many people are still unaccounted for, as officers set out to offer life saving help.
“That could have been us and the devastation, the powerlines, the desperation — we’ve walked through the communities. The elderly folks, their homes are destroyed, and a lot of them are retired communities. They’ve lost everything,” said Ramirez.
The 57 officers are set to be housed in various camping sites across Southwest Florida, as they render aid to the community.
Some crew members responded to the Florida Keys in 2017 after Hurricane Irma struck the area.
Copyright 2023 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.