HMAS Darwin completes earthquake relief

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Andrew Ragless (author), LSIS James Whittle (photographer)

Location(s): Kaikoura, New Zeaand

Topic(s): HMAS Darwin (F04), Humanitarian and Disaster Relief (HADR)

Able Seaman Electronics Warfare Ryan Taylor (left) and Leading Seaman Electronics Technician Nicholas Challinor Stevenson (right) speak with Kaikoura resident Andrew Spencer.  (photo: LSIS James Whittle)
Able Seaman Electronics Warfare Ryan Taylor (left) and Leading Seaman Electronics Technician Nicholas Challinor Stevenson (right) speak with Kaikoura resident Andrew Spencer.

HMAS Darwin has completed her mission in earthquake ravaged Kaikoura, New Zealand.

In the space of 36 hours, Darwin evacuated more than 60 civilians by sea boat to local ship, HMNZS Canterbury, and delivered approximately 13,500 kilograms of food, water and emergency supplies by helicopter.

Commanding Officer Darwin, Commander Phillip Henry said working in a humanitarian and disaster relief effort as part of an international naval task group was breath-taking.

“Our teams have made a real difference on the ground restoring essential services and encouraging the community,” he said.

“As our Navy moves into an era of greater task group operations, Darwin has demonstrated professionalism, adaptability and interoperability in a most impressive way.”

Darwin's
 embarked S-70B-2 Seahawk helicopter performed the bulk of the load lifting.

In more than 30 vertical replenishments per day, she delivered supplies including a one tonne load from Culverden in the south to Kaikoura, a distance of more than 40 nautical miles.

Leading Seaman Aircrewman Dan Colbert said the experience would remain one of the most rewarding in his career.

“We really were in the right place at the right time,” he said.

“And knowing that we could put the helicopter and all our knowledge and expertise to use and help people in desperate need was very satisfying.”

Darwin
, together with Destroyer USS Sampson and Canadian frigate HMCS Vancouver, was diverted from her planned participation in the Royal New Zealand Navy’s 75th Anniversary International Naval Review in Auckland, following a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the Kaikoura region on 14 November.

Over two days, Darwin sent teams of 30 sailors ashore to conduct engineering repair work, clean up duties and welfare visits to residents in outlying areas.

This included building inspections, basic wall reinforcement and engineering repair work at the town’s waste water facility.

Smaller groups worked to clear rocks and debris from road ways, repair doors and windows and even find and relocate motor vehicles.

Sailors delivered care packages and cooked and cleaned in the local marae (Maori meeting grounds).

Able Seaman Boatswains Mate Lisanne Hyland said she witnessed a range of emotions.

“We were able to visit some elderly people who hadn’t seen or heard from anyone in five days,” she said.

“There were some obvious signs of relief and a lot of people broke down in tears."

“I think for many of them, they were just happy to know that we cared.”