23 November 2013
Haiyan survivors evacuated by the Royal New Zealand Air Force from the typhoon-ravaged areas in the eastern Philippines disembark in the city of Cebu, which was left relatively unscathed by the super storm.
The Philippines has thanked the New Zealand government and public for supporting international efforts to help victims of typhoon Haiyan.
“On behalf of the government, I would like to express our sincere gratitude to the government of New Zealand, the New Zealand Defence Force and to all New Zealanders. We shall always remember how you have helped us in our time of need,” said Lieutenant General Roy Deveraturda, commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ command in the Visayas region. The Philippine official oversees the logistical hub set up in the central Philippines city of Cebu to manage the international humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) operation.
Super storm Haiyan, which made landfall in the eastern Philippines town of Guiuan on 8 November, obliterated many towns and cities in the Visayas region, killed an estimated 5,000 people and left around 4 million others homeless.
“The New Zealand Air Force personnel have served the Filipino people well,” said Lieutenant General Deveraturda, referring to the 24-member 40 Squadron detachment deployed here by the New Zealand Defence Force.
“They are professional, efficient and committed. They have contributed a lot to the international HADR operation and we are very grateful for their assistance,” he added.
The Royal New Zealand Air Force’s C-130 Hercules forms part of a multinational pool of military aircraft that are helping distribute aid to typhoon-ravaged areas and evacuate survivors from the remote island-communities.
Squadron Leader James Anderson, the aircraft captain, said they have delivered 170 tonnes of aid supplies and evacuated around 800 survivors to Cebu since New Zealand’s humanitarian mission began on 16 November.
“We are doing our best to support the priorities of the Philippine government,” said Squadron Leader Steve Thornley, the mission commander. “It is incredibly rewarding to see the gratitude and relief on people’s faces when we deliver aid supplies or when we fly them out of those devastated areas.”
Brigadier General Roy Santiago of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, who oversees the Incident Management Centre in Cebu, described the RNZAF’s C-130 as “a workhorse” for doing as many as three taps a day to different areas in the eastern Philippines.
“The Kiwis, in their understated way, have done a great deal in helping us reach hard-hit areas. I’ve enjoyed dealing with them – no fuss, no complaints, just work.”
Filipinos also laud New Zealand’s contribution to the international aid effort.
“I was quizzed today in the shopping mall about the size of New Zealand. When I said we have less than 5 million people, the locals were astounded that such a small nation would care so much to send so much aid. The man I was talking to was in tears; he was so thankful that we’ve sent our boys,” related Patrick McKay, an ex-RNZAF serviceman living in the Philippines.
“Thanks New Zealand! You really made a hit over here.”
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