The Namibia Defence Force has deployed three helicopters to Zimbabwe to help airlift hundreds of families stranded by heavy flooding following weeks of incessant rain.
In a statement, Namibia Defence Force (NDF) public relations officer Petrus Shilumbane said the three helicopters – one Chinese-built Harbin Z-9 and two Indian-built Chetak (Allouette III) helicopters – were deployed after a formal request for flood relief, search and rescue assistance by the Zimbabwean government as heavy rains continue pounding the country.
“The heavy rainfall experienced in the Republic of Zimbabwe has prompted the Government of Zimbabwe to request assistance from the Republic of Namibia. In response to that request the Republic of Namibia has authorised the Namibian Defence Force’s Air Force to send three of its helicopters to the Republic of Zimbabwe in order to assist with airlifting marooned families at Tokwe-Murkosi Basin in Masvingo Province.
“The NDF has sent one Z-9 and two Allouette III helicopters with six pilots and seven technicians. This came as a matter of urgency following the nonstop rainfall of more than 850 mm, which led to the rise of water levels at a rate of 1.8 m per day,” Shilumbu said.
The flood relief effort in the Tokwe-Mukosi basin near the southern town of Masvingo has been beset by serious logistic problem with the government lacking transport to move affected families to higher ground. The Air Force of Zimbabwe (AFZ), which has previously carried out search and rescue operations and provided humanitarian relief assistance, has failed to provide enough aircraft to deal with the large-scale flooding disaster.
Last week it was reported that Namibia is due to receive 12 former South African Air Force Alouette IIIs, originally destined for Zimbabwe but the donation was blocked last year. The aircraft are apparently awaiting delivery to Namibia. The Alouette IIIs would complement Namibia’s two Chetaks (Alouette IIIs) and single Cheetah (Alouette II) from India. Namibia’s Air Force also has in service two Z-9 helicopters, one AW139 and two Mi-17s.