6 October 2018
The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has evacuated about 120 survivors from Palu, the Indonesian city devastated by a 7.5-magnitude earthquake and tsunami last week.
The survivors, many of whom had slept outdoors for days, queued to get into the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) C-130 Hercules aircraft. Many carried backpacks and bags and said they had lost their homes and relatives.
Flight Lieutenant Dave Natapu, aircraft captain from the RNZAF’s No. 40 Squadron, said the Hercules took the survivors, including babies and children, to the port city of Balikpapan after delivering 10.6 tonnes of aid to Palu.
“There was a palpable sense of relief from the evacuees when they got into our Herc,” Flight Lieutenant Natapu said.
“They erupted in cheers and gave a thumbs-up sign before we took off.”
The devastation caused by the twin disasters was apparent as they flew into Palu on Friday afternoon, he said.
“The scale of destruction was worse than I had anticipated.”
Multinational operations to fly aid to disaster zones are being staged out of Balikpapan, a port city in Indonesia’s East Kalimantan province, which is about 380 kilometres west of Palu.
The Indonesian authorities and locals at Palu and Balikpapan thanked the NZDF personnel for helping, Flight Lieutenant Natapu said.
“Our Hercules was one of the first two foreign aircraft to deliver aid to Palu and Indonesian soldiers cheered as we offloaded the supplies yesterday.”
Major General Tim Gall, the Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, said the Hercules and a 14-member NZDF detachment would continue to help transport aid and emergency responders to Palu and evacuate displaced people.
“Together with New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, we are pleased that we are able to lend a hand to the Indonesian authorities at this critical time,” Major General Gall said.