A flotilla of international warships, including the Australian naval frigate HMAS Darwin, will side–step the New Zealand Navy’s 75th anniversary celebrations to rescue earthquake victims.
HMAS Darwin is expected to arrive off the Kaikoura coast on Wednesday evening and will deploy its S–70B–2 Seahawk helicopter from offshore to support the evacuation effort and distribution of disaster relief.
The military fleet was to have taken part in an historic International Naval Review in Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour on Thursday.
The event would have seen a visit by the first United States warship to visit New Zealand in 33 years, after the country’s rift with America over its nuclear ban.
Protesters had planned to greet the USS Sampson with a flotilla, but it has now left the Hauraki Gulf for Kaikoura, where it will deploy two helicopters to help evacuate tourists and residents trapped in the isolated town. The US has also offered a P–3 Orion for surveillance flights.
Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee confirmed to the New Zealand Herald that the country had accepted offers of help from five nations attending the review – the US, Australia, Canada, Japan and Singapore.
Canada is sending its frigate the HMCS Vancouver.
Mr Brownlee said the New Zealand Navy had already sent HMNZS Canterbury and HMNZS Wellington to Kaikoura and would also send HMNZS Te Kaha and tanker ship, HMNZS Endeavour.
— Michael Morrah (@MichaelMorrah) November 15, 2016
Australia’s Defence Minister Marise Payne said HMAS Darwin had been diverted following a request from the New Zealand government.
“Having HMAS Darwin already in New Zealand has enabled us to respond quickly to this request,” Senator Payne said.
— Dominic Race Godfrey (@28WordAverage) November 15, 2016
“While the Naval Review is important, helping the people who have been impacted directly by the earthquake is the highest priority.
“Our thoughts are with those affected and we stand ready to provide additional support if it is requested.”
— Tonkin+Taylor (@TonkinTaylor) November 15, 2016
Mr Brownlee said it was heartening to see overseas partners so willing to alter their plans and offer their assistance.
“Despite the changes to the planned celebrations, it’s poignant to see the anniversary marked with such cooperation and camaraderie,” he told the Herald.
The Chinese government has already sent in helicopters to rescue its nationals in Kaikoura, sparking complaints from English tourists left stranded. The UK did not send a ship to the commemorations.
Two people died in the earthquake, hundreds remain in emergency shelters, more than a thousand tourists were stranded in Kaikoura, and the capital, Wellington, has emptied out as office buildings are checked for structural damage. There is major concern over a 10–storey office block that may have to be demolished.
Hundreds of aftershocks have continued to hit the country, from the lower North Island to Chatham Islands.
Last 48 hours in NZ in 30 seconds. #eqnz
All quakes above magnitude of 2.
— Harkanwal (@kamal_hothi) November 13, 2016
Damage to a waterfront stadium has seen the Wellington Phoenix v Melbourne Victory football match this weekend postponed, and domestic cricket has been affected by issues at the Basin Reserve.
– with agencies