NZDF is on the ground in Fiji

  • 07/03/2016
NZDF is on the ground in Fiji

The New Zealand Defence Force is on the ground in Fiji's remote northern islands, which were devastated by Cyclone Winston.

The HMNZS Canterbury brought more than 106 tonnes of emergency relief supplies and 300 more personnel when it reached Suva last Thursday.

Forty-three people have been killed by tropical cyclone Winston, which struck more than two weeks ago, causing millions of dollars worth of damage and leaving more than 55,000 homeless.

The Fijian government asked that the Canterbury take food, water and supplies to remote communities in the northern islands of the Lau group.

The vessel is anchored off Lomaloma, the main village on the island of Vanua Balavu, 290km east of Fijian capital Suva - which serves as the defence force's maritime hub for the recovery operation.

About 270 NZDF engineers and naval personnel have been sent to the area.

The Canterbury's commander Simon Rooke said Vanua Balavu was directly in the path of the cyclone and devastation was extensive.

"We are here to assist the community to restore some normality to their lives after such a severe event," he said.

Supplies were being offloaded using the Canterbury's landing craft and were distributed to affected communities.

The ship was also converting seawater into drinking water for Lomaloma residents, while its Seasprite helicopter was flying civilian Kiwi medical volunteers to islands in the Lau group, he said.

Close to 500 combat engineers, soldiers, sailors and air crew have been sent to Fiji, making it one of the NZDF's largest peacetime deployments to the Pacific.

They are helping the local military assess the scale of the devastation, clearing roads and repairing schools and community buildings.

The New Zealand government has so far committed $4.7 million worth of aid to help Fiji recover from Winston.