By: David Pugliese, Defence Watch
The Royal Canadian Navy is joining efforts to help New Zealand deal with the devastation caused by the magnitude 7.5 earthquake that hit the country on Monday.
New Zealand’s Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee has confirmed the Canadian frigate, HMCS Vancouver, is among the warships from five nations now on the way to provide help.
The warships were to visit Auckland for an event to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Royal New Zealand Navy. Instead they are bypassing that and will head to the town of Kaikoura to assist with the earthquake response.
The quake trigged massive landslides, destroying homes and cutting off the coastal town of Kaikoura. Two people died. Around 1,000 tourists in the town are stranded. New Zealand military helicopters helped rescue 200 people.
Brownlee said ships from five nations that were to attend the country’s International Naval Review – the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan and Singapore – are sending their vessels to the region hit by the earthquake. A US destroyer equipped with two helicopters is among that effort. The US has also offered an aircraft to conduct surveillance flights, he added.
Australia has diverted the HMAS Darwin from her planned participation in the naval celebrations. “The Darwin is expected to arrive off the Kaikoura coast on Wednesday evening and will deploy its Seahawk helicopter from offshore,” Brownlee said. “Canada is sending its frigate the HMCS Vancouver.”
It is unclear when HMCS Vancouver will arrive. Canada’s Department of National Defence could not provide details.
But Brownlee said the help is welcomed. “It’s heartening to see overseas partners so willing to alter their plans and offer their assistance,” he said. “The International Naval Review is all about celebrating 75 years of the Royal New Zealand Navy and the bonds it has forged globally. Despite the changes to the planned celebrations, it’s poignant to see the anniversary marked with such cooperation and camaraderie.”
The New Zealand Navy has already sent two ships to Kaikoura and another two will be added to that effort.
Several hundred members of the New Zealand defence force personnel are already on the ground helping with recovery efforts.