New Zealand Defence Force NH90 helicopters are delivering sacks of seeds, seedlings and plant cuttings to three outlying islands as Fijian communities start the long task of rebuilding after the devastation wreaked by Tropical Cyclone Winston.
CAPTION: New Zealand Defence Force NH90 helicopters deliver sacks of seeds, seedlings and plant cuttings to Gau, Batiki and Nairai, three islands up to 120km east of Suva.
“These will be a big help to our village, as many farms were destroyed by the cyclone. We lost our crops and our source of income,” said Apakuki Koroi, headman of Vadravadra, a palm-fringed seaside village in Gau Island, 100km east of the Fijian capital of Suva.
“These seeds are very precious; they are seeds of new life. We are starting from scratch and it will take a while before things go back to normal, but these seeds will help us rebuild our lives.”
Fiji’s National Disaster Management Office has asked the NZDF to deliver dozens of sacks packed with seeds and cuttings of eggplants, cabbage, long beans and kumara or sweet potato, which is a staple food in Fiji.
The Royal New Zealand Air Force’s NH90 helicopters are assisting Fiji’s disaster recovery efforts on their first overseas mission. Since arriving in Suva on 3 March, they have been delivering aid supplies and transporting civilian medical volunteers from New Zealand as well as staff from Fiji government agencies to remote cyclone-ravaged communities.
“I heard on the radio that the New Zealand military are here to help the people of Fiji. Tell them we are thankful,” Mr Koroi said.
“We are saddened by what has happened here and the immense loss suffered by the people of Fiji. On the other hand, we are glad we are able to use our helicopters and other assets to help them,” NH90 captain Squadron Leader Phil Wilson said.
“Our NH90s are versatile and can perform a wide range of tasks even in austere environments. They are well-suited for humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations such as this.”
The RNZAF NH90s are operating out of Nausori Airport in Suva and may also potentially operate out of some of the remote outlying islands.