The New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF) humanitarian aid operation in cyclone-ravaged Fiji is now in full swing with the arrival this morning of multi-role vessel HMNZS Canterbury, close to 300 additional personnel to assist with the disaster recovery efforts and 106 more tonnes of emergency relief supplies.
“Canterbury will serve as the maritime base for New Zealand’s post-disaster recovery operations in Fiji’s northern outer islands,” said Colonel (COL) Glenn King, commander of the task group in Fiji.
“We work to the Fiji Government’s priorities and their request to us is to get food, water and shelter to the disaster-struck remote communities in the northern outlying islands.”
Commander (CDR) Simon Rooke, Commanding Officer of Canterbury, said the ship will sail this evening to the northern Lau group of islands after refuelling, disembarking two Royal New Zealand Air Force NH90 multi-role helicopters, loading additional aid supplies funded by the New Zealand Aid Programme and embarking 20 engineers from the Republic of Fiji Military Forces and 20 staff from Fiji’s Ministry of Education, who will assess the state of schools in the remote islands.
“The ship provides a highly capable platform for a humanitarian aid operation, as we demonstrated in Vanuatu last year,” CDR Rooke said. “It is capable of producing up to 50,000 litres of drinking water per day and sustaining 366 people at sea for 30 days.
“The entire ship’s company are eager to get out there, roll up our sleeves and help our Fijian neighbours.”
The NH90 helicopters, which are on their first operational deployment overseas, will help deliver essential aid supplies to cyclone-ravaged communities in Fiji’s northern islands.
“The range and lift capacity of the NH90 helicopters will enable us to deliver much-needed aid supplies to remote communities,” said Squadron Leader Ben Pryor, commander of the No 3 Squadron detachment.
Canterbury is loaded with aid supplies such as building materials, water storage tanks, food, water and medical supplies. It also carried a Seasprite helicopter, 45 vehicles, two landing craft and around 300 soldiers, naval personnel, aircrew, engineers and medical staff.
COL King said no end-date for the NZDF deployment to Fiji had been determined at this stage.
“We have people on the ground working with the Republic of Fiji Military Forces in assessing the scale of the devastation caused by the cyclone, clearing roads and repairing schools and community buildings smashed by the powerful storm.”
Close to 500 combat engineers, soldiers, sailors and aircrew have been deployed for the humanitarian aid operation, making it one of the NZDF’s largest peacetime deployments to the Pacific.
The offshore patrol vessel HMNZS Wellington sailed to the northern Lau islands on Sunday to deliver around 60 tonnes of aid supplies and identify beaches that will be suitable for Canterbury’s landing craft operations.