Namibian Air Force ends Zimbabwe flood rescue mission


The Nambian Air Force (NAF) says the three helicopters which were deployed to Zimbabwe on a flood rescue mission nearly two weeks ago have returned home after safely evacuating more than 600 stranded people from the severely flooded Tokwe-Mukosi river basin in Masvingo.

The three helicopters – two Indian-made Alouette IIIs and one Chinese-made Harbin Z-9 – were dispatched to Zimbabwe with a crew of six pilots and seven technicians following an appeal for assistance following heavy rains which caused severe flooding across the country two weeks ago.

Addressing delegates at the welcoming ceremony at Grootfontein Air Base on Thursday, Namibian Air Vice Marshall Martin Pinehas said two helicopters flew straight back to home base in Grootfontein while the third one has been re-deployed to flood alert duties at the Mpacha/Katima Mulilo airport in the northern Zambezi Region.

Pinehas said the aircraft flew a total of 38.6 hours over a period of nine days and no problems were experienced with the aircraft or crews during the entire operation.
“The Air Force of Zimbabwe is one of the few that deployed its helicopters to assist our flood-affected communities in the Zambezi Region during the floods of 2006. Our response to their request should not be seen as payback but rather a strengthening of cooperation in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region,” Pinehas said.
“I would also like to thank each and every member of the air force who contributed to the success of this mission. Its success is a reflection of the Namibian Air Force’s preparedness to respond to eventualities such as disasters within Namibia and beyond,”.

Group commander Captain Abed Hihepo said the mission went off smoothly despite minor operational challenges: “The only challenge was that there was only one platform – we had to evacuate people fast because the village was being overwhelmed by water. The mission was scheduled to last for only five days but when we saw the situation on the ground we decided on an additional two days,” Hihepo said.