NZ Major General gives Fiji aid update en route to Suva
New Zealand military joint forces commander says the NZ presence in Fiji is for as long as it takes following the destruction of cyclone Winston.
The Commander of New Zealand's joint forces says the more than 400 personnel in cyclone-affected Fiji are there for as long as it takes to bring essential relief to the most remote islands.
Major General Tim Gall, who will visit Vanua Balavu tomorrow, says crew are making their way to small islands in the Southern Lau group after, more than two weeks after Cyclone Winston hit.
He told Alex Perrottet the HMNZS Canterbury's landing craft enabled the delivery of building materials and tarpaulins for the many people who are without homes.
Tim Gall: I don't actually have too much idea about the long-term piece because that very mch does fit in the Fijian government's space. But I've got a reasonable idea about the temporary solution which is around decent, high-strength tarpaulins which at least give people shelter for some months while they get round to building proper houses. but we don't have a lot of visibility of the longer-term Fijian government plan. I guess they're still right in the middle of the response phase at this time, so that's probably understandable. And they are doing a great job, the national disaster management office, they've really gripped this up themselves and we're really just doing what they want us to do.
Alex Perrottet: And of course, in that short-term, there's a concern about the spread of illnesses and diseases. What's the medical team doing there in terms of mitigating that?
TG: Well there's two big risks at the moment: one is typhoid, and of course all our personnel are vaccinate for typhoid already so the medical team's been doing what they can about that, which is primarily two things - one is around vaccination of course, but the other thing is making sure there's not too much water lying around and thigns like that; and the sanitation piece, and there's quite a big emphasis on that. So we've got a reasonably large environmental health team as part of the guys doing the recovery.
AP: And can you give me an idea of the numbers of personnel we've got out there in Lau Group, and also the time frame - how long is the Canterbury going to be there, and how long is the New Zealand effort going to be concentrated in that Eastern group?
TG: So we've got about 450 people in Fiji currently. And of that, probably about 370 of them are out in the Lau group. At this stage, it looks like we will stay in that Lau Group, because there is actually an awful lot of work to do there. And the emphasis now has perhaps gone off Vanua Balavu a little bit, and it's now going to some of those smaller islands in the Lau Group, and in fact a little bit of focus into the Southern Lau Group. It's what the HMNZS Wellington has actually been doing. So while the Canterbury has been staying around the main island, the Wellington and the helicopters are now starting to work out to those smaller islands and make sure they've got the same sort of support that the main island of the Lau Group has had. As far as timing's concerned, from our perspective, it's reasonably open-ended. But that's really a decision for our government and the Fijian government. but all the indications that we've had is really that we'll be there as long as it takes to get people through this immediate response phase. Obviously we can't be there right through the recovery phase while every house gets built and everything else. but I imagine it will carry on for some time yet. Certainly we're set up to be able to do that, and really that's probably the main thing from our perspective is not being in a position where we have to leave but where we can stay as long as the government would like us to.
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