Durban airport used to assist USAF delivering aid to Mozambican cyclone victims


The South African port city of Durban is playing a vital role in assisting the United States Air Force (USAF) deliver urgently needed humanitarian supplies to the Mozambican victims of Cyclone Idai.

Teams from Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), which is leading the United States relief efforts in Mozambique, immediately responded to a call for assistance from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Disaster Assistance Response Team, with the first C-130 arriving in Maputo on 27 March.

According to USAID, the aircraft is helping their disaster team deliver critical relief supplies – like emergency food and shelter kits – to the affected communities. One of its first missions: transporting six World Food Programme utility vehicles to Beira, one of the hardest hit cities.

Nearly 275 metric tons of food from the U.N. World Food Programme, as well as equipment and medical supplies, will be transported to Mozambique aboard two USAF C-130J Hercules aircraft.

With more than 50 CJTF-HOA joint personnel (from Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti) having been sent to Mozambique to assist with logistics and distribution of supplies, a six-person team from the 435th Contingency Response Group (435th CRG) out of Ramstein Air Base, Germany, began airfield assessments for the relief effort last Tuesday. About 39 airmen from the group will function as a 24-hour distribution hub for receiving, packaging and distributing food, water, medical supplies and other relief materials once they start coming in.

The 435th CRG team assessed airfields across the stricken area to determine where USAF C-17s, C-130s and other military aircraft can safely land, park and refuel.

With facilities at Maputo International Airport becoming increasingly strained, both the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) and the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) rapidly assisted in obtaining the overflight and landing clearances on Friday 29 March for a USAF C-130J Super Hercules cargo aircraft to use Durban’s King Shaka International Airport as a cargo pick-up point to fly pallets of food to Mozambique, primarily to Maputo, then to Beira.

The food disembarked via the World Food Programme into the Port of Durban and the first C-130J arrived at King Shaka International Airport on the morning of Saturday 30 March to load the initial 100 metric tonnes of food relief. Based out of Maputo, the aircraft will fly into Durban empty to pick up supplies and then fly it back to Mozambique. Over the next five days, the aircraft will shuttle back and forth between Durban and Mozambique, performing double shuttles.

Other companies who also readily agreed to work overtime in support of the relief efforts include Swissport (ground and cargo handling services), Skytanking Calulo (aircraft refuelling) and Dube Cargo Terminal (cargo facilities).