New Zealand Embassy Tokyo, Japan

NZ Air Force Evacuates Haiyan Survivors

17 November 2013

A Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) cargo aircraft evacuated around 240 survivors and distributed aid to the typhoon-devastated eastern Philippines on the first day of New Zealand’s humanitarian mission to the Southeast Asian country.

“We are supporting the international effort to get aid into the worst-hit areas, where there is a huge humanitarian need for food, water and shelter,” said Squadron Leader Steve Thornley, commander of the 24-member 40 Squadron detachment that has been deployed by the New Zealand Defence Force.

“We also tried to get as many people as we can to better conditions in Cebu,” he said, referring to one of few cities in the region that escaped the wrath of the super storm.

On Saturday, the RNZAF’s C-130 Hercules delivered around 30 tonnes of rice, tinned food, water, emergency shelter, field hospital equipment and toilets to the battered cities of Tacloban and Ormoc and the town of Guiuan as part of an international humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operation in the Philippines.

“We will try to reach other hard-hit areas in coming days,” according to Squadron Leader Thornley.

The RNZAF C-130, which arrived in the central Philippines city of Cebu on Friday with around six tonnes of aid and emergency supplies, has joined a multinational fleet of military aircraft that are helping distribute food, water and emergency shelter to survivors stranded in remote locations in this archipelagic Southeast Asian country.

Squadron Leader James Anderson said they will fly to Darwin today to pick up another four tonnes of disaster relief goods donated donated by the New Zealand government, private sector and non-government organisations.

“We are doing as much as we can in coordination with the Philippine military. It’s great to be part of this multinational effort to help the Philippines and have the opportunity to make a difference. It’s very rewarding to be able to wave the Kiwi flag,” he said.

Thousands of survivors, many with only the clothes on their backs and are desperate to flee the trail of devastation left by Haiyan, were queuing at the damaged airports of Tacloban, Ormoc and Guiuan when the RNZAF aircraft arrived on Saturday. At Ormoc, where thousands of people are feared to have been killed by the super storm, survivors ran to the RNZAF aircraft as soon as they were told that they could board.

“Someone told me this is a New Zealand aircraft. Thank you New Zealand for getting me and my family to safety, thank you for helping us,” said Cristino Campo, a 50-year-old carpenter from Tacloban who was evacuated with his wife and three children.

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