NZ PM Hipkins: Fiji joins Cyclone Gabrielle recovery efforts

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Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said New Zealand has accepted international help from multiple countries to support its cyclone recovery efforts, announcing that Fiji will be lending a hand in the coming days.

At a press conference, Hipkins said the Pacific nation will be sending 10 defence force personnel, four National Fire Authority crew, and four National Disaster Management Office officials.

He also shared that an offer from the Australian Defence Force is in the final stages of being accepted, which would support the NZDF with a C-130 transport aircraft, air load teams to rig freight onto it, and environmental health staff to assist in analysing health risks.

This would be in addition to the 27-person Australian impact assessment team currently supporting affected regions.

“25 of them are already on the ground in the Hawke’s Bay, and two are supporting the National Coordination Centre. Their main focus will be on helping to contact those who are not yet accounted for,” Hipkins said.

“We’ve received a dozen or so offers of international assistance in total.”

The U.S and Australia, in collaboration with the New Zealand Defence Force, have also provided support in the skies through “crucial” satellite imagery products for impacted regions.

Hipkins gave an update on the numbers for impacted regions, sharing that 3216 people reported as unaccounted for – roughly half of the 6431 total – are “OK”, while “police are working hard to reconcile the others”

Meanwhile, 28,000 homes remain without power and there is local concern for increased crime, with 42 arrests made in Hawke’s Bay and 17 in Tairāwhiti since the cyclone struck.

Further aid for Napier is anticipated soon as the HMNZS Canterbury is expected to leave Littleton tomorrow and arrive by Tuesday, bringing with it five bailey bridges, 20 generators, 50 gas bottles, and 120 emergency packs.

The PM shared that, in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle’s impact and subsequent recovery, he has cancelled his attendance at the Pacific Islands Forum Special Leaders’ Retreat this week, with Deputy PM Carmel Sepuloni now going in his stead.

It will be her first opportunity as both Deputy PM and Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs to meet with Pacific leaders face-to-face.

“In the face of the increasingly complex challenges posed to the Pacific – including from climate change, the impacts of which are currently being felt here in New Zealand – a unified approach to collective action has never been more important,” Sepuloni said in a statement.

“I acknowledge that Prime Minister Chris Hipkins had been planning to attend the Forum, however New Zealand needs its leader right now in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle and the devastation it has left behind,” she added.

Sepuloni will leave New Zealand on Thursday 23 February and returns the next day, Friday 24 February.

SOURCE: TVNZ/PACNEWS