Kiwi combat engineers have been welcomed in parts of Fiji as they help locals clear trees and start to rebuild in the wake of Cyclone Winston.
An advance party of 37 engineers arrived in Suva on Wednesday night while HMNZS Wellington departed from Auckland's Devonport on Thursday afternoon with more essential supplies.
Housewife Usenia Nemai and daughters Rusila, 18, and Marie Grace, 5, stand at what used to be the lounge of their two-bedroom home in Driti village along the northern coast of Viti Levu, Fiji’s main island. (NZDF)
The sealift and amphibious support vessel HMNZS Canterbury was loaded up today and will depart tomorrow to be the hub of the joint task force set up by New Zealand to help Fiji.
A team of 25 NZDF and Fijian engineers cleared felled trees at the village of Driti, about 50km north of the capital, which was an area that bore the brunt of the storm.
"I can't believe it when my five-year-old daughter told me that New Zealand soldiers have come to help our village," local Usenia Nemai said.
"I rushed out and true enough, the Kiwis were clearing the fallen trees and removing other debris."
New Zealand is sending two NH90 medium utility helicopters, one Seasprite helicopter, one P-3K2 Orion surveillance aircraft, and about 200 engineers, drivers, sappers and medical personnel.
Colonel Glenn King is the commander of the joint task force.
The New Zealand government has already pledged close to $2 million in aid for Fiji in the aftermath of the category five Cyclone Winston and aid supplies, including tarpaulins and generators, have been flown to the island nation.
The official death toll in the country is 42 while tens of thousands of Fijians are homeless and living in evacuation shelters.