Oryx proving its worth in Mozambique


The rotary-winged workhorse of the SA Air Force (SAAF) – the Oryx medium transport – is again proving its worth in flood-ravaged Mozambique.

Since the two Oryx, one each from 17 and 19 squadrons, were deployed last Monday on a post-Cyclone Idai damage assessment they have brought at least two thousand stranded Mozambicans to safety at hastily set-up camps on high ground.

Lieutenant Colonel Piet Paxton, SO1, Operational Communication at SANDF Joint Operations Division, said communications with Beira were “extremely problematic” but it appeared the twin-engined helicopters would bring a further six thousand Mozambicans to camps during the next few days.

The camps have been set up on high ground on mostly privately-owned farms and are supplied by various government, non-government organisations (NGOs) and foreign government agencies and departments. These include the SAAF and the SA Military Health Service via a specialist air medical evacuation team and other military healthcare practitioners with an SA Navy dive team on 24 hour standby in Simon’s Town if needed.

Also ready to assist is US African Command (Africom) at the direction of the US Secretary of Defence. The Germany-headquartered command will respond to the US Agency for International Development’s (USAID) requests for support and assistance in the flooded region.

“Africom is actively monitoring and assessing the situation while positioning assets to support the government of Mozambique,” said Marine Corps General Thomas Waldhauser, Commander, US Africa Command. “We are working with the Department of Defence, inter-agency partners, and Mozambique government to provide assistance.”

Africom has designated Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) as the lead for US Department of Defence disaster relief efforts.

Elements from CJTF-HOA are on site conducting initial assessments.

CJTF-HOA is working with the government of Mozambique, the Department of State and USAID to ensure a comprehensive response to the humanitarian crisis.

In addition to the two Oryx helicopters and an  Agusta A109 light utility helicopter, the SAAF contingent in Mozambique will be bolstered by a 41 Squadron PC-12. The light transport will be tasked with personnel and reconnaissance.

Indications are one of the three South African military helicopters will be tasked with ensuring the safe arrival of engineers (electrical and water) at the Cahora Bassa dam site. They will inspect and report back on the best methods to bring full power supply back from the hydro-electric plant.

AFB Waterkloof in Centurion has been used by a chartered An-12 ferrying supplies, mostly medical and food, to Mozambique. The aircraft flew to Beira at the weekend carrying 12 tons of much-needed supplies and equipment and returned to the base ahead of loading at least another five tons of much-needed equipment and supplies for the Mozambican port city on a Tuesday take-off. Paxton said the supplies and equipment came from organisations such as Gift of the Givers, other NGOs and donations.

Another country assisting Mozambique is India, which sent three ships to the southern African country (INS Sujata, ICGS Sarathi and INS Shardul). They were on a training mission when they were diverted to Mozambique to provide medical assistance, clothes and food. The embarked helicopters have been used to evacuate people from areas cut off by flood waters.

To sustain relief operations, another ship INS Magar, loaded with relief materials, is being sent to Mozambique. Assistance is also being sent to Zimbabwe and Malawi.