Airlift operation to assist Tuvalu drought

Friday 7 October 2011, 9:25PM
By Murray McCully

Foreign Affairs Minister, Murray McCully, says a New Zealand and Australian airlift operation is starting from today to assist the drought stricken Tuvalu.

A series of RNZAF C130 flights and an RAAF C17 flight will be made over the coming days to deploy a large New Zealand Army desalination unit to Funafuti, Tuvalu.

“The RNZAF C130 flight to Tuvalu earlier this week provided smaller desalination units along with Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Red Cross staff. The advice is that more capacity is needed to relieve the acute water shortage and replenish stocks,” said Murray McCully.

The first flight in the airlift will be a C130 leaving Whenuapai this afternoon to deliver an advanced party of 5 personnel and a forklift.

It is expected on Monday an RAAF C17 will transport a large desalination plant, which is currently at the Linton Army Camp, to Samoa. A New Zealand C130 will then shuttle the unit to Funafuti over several flights.

“At present the two operating desalination plants at Funafuti are producing a combined volume of 43,000 litres a day. The minimum requirement for the 5300 residents is 79,500 litres a day,” said Murray McCully.

“The large Army desalination equipment can produce a good volume. It will help ease the critical shortage and should provide a sufficient buffer if the dry period continues as expected,” he said.

“I would like to thank the Australian government for its assistance in the airlift, allowing a prompt deployment of a large piece of equipment,” said Mr McCully.

On Wednesday the New Zealand government also sent a C130 flight to Samoa with water containers. It met with the US Coastguard vessel WALNUT. It has now departed Pago Pago for the Tokelau group, which is also experiencing severe water shortages.