HMNZS Canterbury resupplies for Fiji cyclone relief efforts

New Zealand Navy’s multi-role vessel HMNZS Canterbury, currently supporting Fiji cyclone relief efforts, has returned to Fiji’s capital, Suva, to load more emergency supplies for Fiji’s northern outer islands and replenish her own supplies.

Cyclone Winston, which hit Fiji on Saturday, February 20, 2016, killed 42 people and caused millions of damage. It has been described as one of the most damaging cyclones in Fiji’s history.

New Zealand sent the strategic sealift ship Canterbury to deliver essential supplies like building materials, water storage tanks and medical supplies. Canterbury was supported by the Offshore Patrol Vessel HMNZS Wellington which left the region March 16 after operating for almost three weeks in the northern Lau archipelago.

Commander (CDR) Simon Rooke, Commanding Officer of Canterbury, said 15 tonnes of construction materials and nine tonnes of food were loaded for distribution in the northern Lau archipelago during the March 16 resupply.

“Returning to Suva has enabled us to pick up more supplies for villages on Vanuabalavu Island including materials for the rebuilding that is underway there, as well as work that will begin on Yacata Island,” CDR Rooke said.

Commanding Officer of the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Task Unit, Major (MAJ) Chris Wilson said eight combat engineers from the NZDF and three from the Republic of Fiji Military Forces form part of a 16-person reconstruction team that will be based at Yacata this Thursday to support rebuilding on the island over the next 10 days.

HMNZS Wellington delivered around 70 tonnes of aid supplies from New Zealand to affected communities on Vanuabalavu, Yacata, and other islands in the area.

The offshore patrol ship also identified route and anchorage into Vanuabalavu lagoon that Canterbury used for her landing craft operations.

Canterbury first arrived in Suva on March 3 with 106 tonnes of aid supplies funded by the New Zealand Aid Programme. She anchored off Lomaloma, the main village on Vanuabalavu, and is serving as the maritime base for the NZDF’s humanitarian aid operation in the northern outlying islands.