30 November 2013
Members of the 24-member New Zealand Defence Force contingent, comprised of personnel from the RNZAF’s No.40 Squadron and No.209 Squadron, deployed to support the international aid operation in the Philippines
CEBU, The Philippines – A 24-member New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) contingent has braved damaged airfields and searing heat to transport about 500 tonnes (or 1 million lbs) of aid and other disaster relief goods and around 1100 survivors from typhoon-wrecked island communities in the eastern Philippines.
“The NZDF part of the mission is complete,” Wing Commander Matt Hill, head of the New Zealand contingent and Commanding Officer of the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s (RNZAF) No.40 Squadron, said as New Zealand’s 16-day humanitarian mission to the Philippines drew to a close today.
“We have contributed significantly to the international effort to get aid into the remote areas where the need is greatest,” he added.
A RNZAF C-130 Hercules formed part of a multinational fleet of military aircraft that are delivering tonnes of food, water and emergency shelter every day to people affected by the November 8 super storm. The RNZAF aircraft has also been getting humanitarian workers into the hard-to-reach areas.
“We are on track to transport around 500 tonnes of aid, equipment and materials used for disaster relief work, and passengers including humanitarian workers in the two weeks we have been here. What we have achieved with a team of 24 and one C-130 is staggering,” said Squadron Leader James Anderson, the RNZAF C-130 Hercules captain.
As the pilot, Squadron Leader Anderson said his biggest challenge was operating the Hercules “to its absolute limits” in and out of airfields that have been damaged by the storm and have no airfield service or lights.
“Most of the airfields don’t have lighting so we maximise what we can achieve during the day. This includes flying up to three sorties a day, taking as much aid as we can possibly carry to any airfield that the Philippine military requests us to go to,” he explained.
The New Zealand contingent, comprised of personnel from the Air Force’s No.40 Squadron and No.209 Squadron, said the smiles and heartfelt “thank yous” from survivors evacuated to the central Philippines city of Cebu were the true measures of the mission’s success.
Philippine authorities have thanked the New Zealand government for their contribution to the international humanitarian aid operation.
“The New Zealand Air Force personnel have served the Filipino people well,” 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 Cebu to manage the international aid operation.
“They are professional, efficient and committed. They have contributed a lot to the international aid operation and we are very grateful for their assistance,” he stressed.
The New Zealand Defence Force has previously taken part in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in Samoa, Indonesia and Christchurch. But the humanitarian mission to the Philippines is probably among the biggest operations it has ever been involved in.
For requests from New Zealand-based media, please contact the Defence Communications Group on 021 487 980.
A photo diary of New Zealand’s humanitarian mission is on the Facebook sites of the NZDF (https://www.facebook.com/NewZealandDefenceForce) and the RNZAF (https://www.facebook.com/RoyalNewZealandAirForce).
A video report of New Zealand’s humanitarian mission can be viewed on: http://youtu.be/AUrU5VD6UQo.