MENLO PARK (KCBS) -–As search and rescue efforts got underway in New Zealand following Tuesday’s deadly 6.3 magitude earthquake, many of the first responders in New Zealand were actually trained in the Bay Area.

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Experts contend the first 24 to 72 hours are considered the most critical after a major collapse of buildings and other structures, usually proving to be the time when search and rescue teams have the most success in finding victims.

KCBS’ Holly Quan Reports:

Menlo Park Fire Division Chief Frank Fraone, who works with the California Urban Search and Rescue Task Force, said the organization played a big role in helping to train the crews in New Zealand.

“They’ve come to Menlo Park for training. This week, there’s actually some training out at our site going on right now that those members have participated in,” Fraone said. “We’ve trained them over the years from that region, as well as Canada, China and Japan.”

That specialized training is good news for Rob Gwynne, who in 1979, moved from his hometown of Christchurch, New Zealand to Brentwood. He said his immediate family was safe, but they told him they were jumpy from all of the aftershocks.

“There are four avenues that tend to run around the center of the city. The city has been blocked off at those points,” Gwynne said. “They have actually taken steps to stop people from getting downtown. They’ve said that no one is to be able to go downtown for probably at least a week to a week and a half.”

Over 100 search and rescue specialists are in Christchurch, with more on the way, including a U.S. team from Los Angeles County.

At least 65 people have been confirmed dead and another 100 were reported missing.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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