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Volunteers head from Mass. to Houston to help with flood rescues

Drone footage shows tropical Storm Harvey flooding Brays Bayou, surrounding areas
Drone footage shows tropical Storm Harvey flooding Brays Bayou, surrounding areas

A task force of 16 volunteers is traveling from Massachusetts to Houston to help rescue people trapped in the flood waters left by Hurricane Harvey and will remain in Texas “until the mission is accomplished,” a group leader said Monday.

Thomas G. Gatzunis, a former Massachusetts public safety chief who’s currently serving as an engineer and section chief with the task force, said the team left Sunday night and was still en route to the storm-ravaged area Monday morning.

The group, comprised of police, firefighters, and other first responders from New England, is traveling by truck and bringing four metal-hull vessels and two rubber boats for deployment to flooded areas, said Gatzunis by phone at the group’s Beverly, Mass., headquarters.


Once residents are rescued, the boats will take them to areas called “lily pads” where they can await transfer to shelters via helicopter or highwater vehicles, Gatzunis said. He said there is no set time for the task force’s deployment.

The typical stay is 14 days, he said, but “there’s certainly been deployments where members have stayed much longer than that. It’s really until the mission is accomplished.”

He said task force members hail from states including Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island and are always willing to lend a hand in the aftermath of a devastating natural disaster.

“We pray that we never have to go to any event, because we don’t want to see anybody put in harm’s way,” he said. “But if the event happens, we all want to be the first ones there to help.”

Gatzunis said he and additional members of the task force will be ready to travel to Texas if ordered to do so.

Other Bay State volunteers told the Globe over the weekend that they were among the legions of civilians who traveled to the Lone Star State to offer help in any way possible.


Andrew Enos, a Brockton resident volunteering with the Red Cross, said his group was helping to shelter weary residents Sunday in hotel ballrooms in Corpus Christi, a city mostly without power and drinkable water.

“We’re just opening more shelters as people go home and realize that their homes aren’t there anymore,” Enos said.

Globe correspondent Rowan Walrath contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.