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MIL OSI – Source: New Zealand Defence Force – NZDF Hard at Work in Vanuatu

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) sealift vessel HMNZS Canterbury has begun unloading vital stores and equipment to assist Vanuatu in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Pam.

Fourteen NZDF personnel and three New Zealand Fire Service staff landed at Rovo Bay on Epi Island yesterday to start repairs at the Vailame Medical Centre. Work is also scheduled for this weekend at the local school in the hope that the buildings can be ready for classes tomorrow.

The tasks have been prioritised in consultation with Vanuatu Government representatives who are on site with the aid teams.

The Commanding Officer of HMNZS Canterbury, Commander (CDR) Simon Rooke, said that it was very satisfying to be getting the much-needed aid to Epi and the outlying islands.

“Everyone is really happy that we are here and are moving stores and personnel ashore. On Saturday a landing craft took 15 tonnes of Red Cross stores to a neighbouring island, then took the NZDF engineering teams ashore, and the helicopter was also busy moving people to where they needed to be.

“The beauty of this ship is that we have a platform that can put a very capable force to work, but we don’t put any additional demands on the island,” CDR Rooke said.

“Having combined reconnaissance teams of NZDF, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Vanuatu Government personnel going ahead of us sets up access for us, allowing us to prioritise work and decide what to put where and when.

“It has been a really well co-ordinated activity. Everyone here has the same sense of purpose and vision, and we are all determined to provide maximum effect to improve the situation of the people on these islands as soon as possible.

“We are all focused on the same thing so that makes it really easy to work together,” he said.