When a 28 Squadron C-130BZ touched down at AFB Waterkloof at 12h00 on Saturday it was job over and well done for the 80-strong SA National Defence Force (SANDF) deployment to assist a flood ravaged northern Mozambique under the task name Operation Loapi.
“Fourteen days were allocated for the mission and the team wrapped it up on target and on time,” said Lieutenant Colonel Piet Paxton of Joint Operations.
While the floods were not as devastating as those which struck South Africa’s eastern neighbour in 2000 the lessons learnt from that experience have been taken to heart, he said, pointing out the organisation of Mozambican government disaster management along with numerous non-government organisations as well as the South Africa military contingent “did what had to be done and did it well”.
In the 14 days South African airmen, medics and soldiers were billeted in civilian accommodation in Quelimane, about 120 flying hours were logged. Agusta and Oryx helicopters flew the bulk of these hours delivering food, medical and shelter aid to Mozambicans left stranded by floodwaters.
“All told 74 tons of equipment was flown from Quelimane to villages and places identified as being the most in need by the disaster management organisation on the ground in the Zambezia province town,” Paxton said, adding 10 medevac missions were also flown by the helicopters of 17 and 19 squadrons.
“Eight of these were pregnancy related,” he said adding “happily” not one involved assisting in giving birth for a woman stuck in a tree as happened just over 14 years ago.
An indication of the difficulties faced by those involved in the humanitarian operation comes with the distances involved. Paxton said by far the majority of equipment needed was flown in from Maputo, just over a thousand kilometres south of Quelimane, by Mozambican Air Force helicopters.
“Then, following meetings and joint decision making by all involved, food, medical and shelter equipment was loaded and flown from Quelimane to identified landing zones,” he said, adding Beira was 300 km away. About 800 km away from Quelimane is Pemba, where there is a South African military presence supporting the anti-piracy deployment, Operation Copper.
“While the South African military deployment was part of a far bigger humanitarian operation we can stand tall knowing our men and women in uniform did what was expected of them and more,” Paxton said.