Around 270 New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) engineers and naval personnel are supporting rebuilding in Fiji’s remote northern Lau islands devastated by Tropical Cyclone Winston.
Commander (CDR) Simon Rooke, Commanding Officer of HMNZS Canterbury, said the multi-role vessel was anchored off Lomaloma, the main village on the island of Vanua Balavu, and was serving as the maritime hub for New Zealand’s post-disaster recovery operations in Fiji’s northern outer islands. Vanua Balavu is 290km east of the Fijian capital of Suva.
“Vanua Balavu was one of the areas directly in the path of the storm so the devastation is quite extensive. We have brought 106 tonnes of aid supplies as well as personnel to help rebuild community buildings. We are here to assist the community to restore some normality to their lives after such a severe event.
“As we have demonstrated in Vanuatu last year, Canterbury is the perfect platform for humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations. It can support up to 366 people for 30 days without replenishing.”
CDR Rooke said aid supplies have been offloaded using Canterbury’s landing craft and distributed to the affected communities. The ship’s Seasprite helicopter has been transporting civilian medical volunteers from New Zealand and staff from Fiji’s disaster management office to nearby islands in the northern Lau archipelago.
Canterbury is also converting seawater into drinking water to support the New Zealand contingent and to provide potable water to Lomaloma residents.
Thirteen members of the New Zealand Fire Service’s Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team are also helping in the rebuild at Vanua Balavu, USAR task force leader Murray Binning said.
“All our USAR personnel come from trade backgrounds. They’ve got their own hammers, tools and generators and form part of the reconstruction team.”
Martin Buet, head of the New Zealand Medical Assistance Team, said a doctor and three nurses are conducting outreach clinics in the different villages at Vanua Balavu over the next two weeks.
“We are here in support of the local government. We may deploy another team to northern Lau if the local authorities see that there’s a need.”
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