5 Oct 2009

More medical staff join Samoa tsunami relief effort

11:27 am on 5 October 2009

A team of 18 New Zealand medical professionals from both the public and private sectors are in Samoa, contributing to tsunami relief efforts.

Orthopaedic and general surgeons, anaesthetists and nurses formed the contingent that left yesterday, with five more experts flying out today to join their ranks.

The project coordinator, Ron Dunham, says the nature of Samoa's medical requests is changing by the day.

He says there's a large backlog of experts who've put their names forward for selection.

Mr Dunham says new consignments of dressings, surgical instruments and antibiotics are being sent across with each rotate of medical staff.

135 of the 176 tsunami deaths were in Samoa.

The Defence Force is praising the work of its personnel in Samoa, saying good progress was made in the relief operation over the weekend.

105 New Zealand personnel are now in Samoa, including medical experts, engineers, and navy divers.

Two Iroquois helicopters are moving village-sized relief packs to affected areas, and there's ongoing work to set-up a portable water purification plant.

The acting commander of the Samoa Tsunami Taskforce, Group Captain John Cummings, says the weekend was productive.

"been able to do some quite good work. They've assisted the police search teams in areas, that's down in the southwest corner. Environmental health people have, I believe, now finished a survey of the worst areas. They now know where to target assistance to go into the future."

John Cummings says HMNZS Canterbury and its personnel from Linton Army Camp remain on standby.

The Prime Minister John Key says it's likely New Zealand will pledge more relief funds to Samoa, as the estimated cost of rebuilding after the recent tsunami reach as much as 200 hundred million US dollars.

Planeloads of medical supplies and relief equipment have been rushed to the country with five more medical staff flying out from New Zealand today to join 32 doctors and nurses already there.

Mr Key cut short his American holiday to visit Samoa on Saturday.

He says the government has pledged another one million New Zealand dollars towards relief efforts, and the wider cost of rebuilding has reached about 200 million.

He says Cabinet will consider in the next week or so what further aid is required.