The SA National Defence Force’s (SANDF) mercy mission to neighbouring Mozambique under Operation Loapi has to date delivered more than 17 tons of aid in various forms.
This includes medical supplies, tents and food, a Joint Operations source said after the first week of the deployment, which has seen about 80 airmen, medics and navy swimmers on the ground in that country’s Zambezia province.
The South Africans hit the ground in northern Mozambique last Friday following an airborne reconnaissance the day before. This saw the number of helicopters deployed increased by one with an Agusta A-109 LUH from 17 Squadron at AFB Zwartkop added to the pair of Oryx medium transport helicopters from 19 Squadron at AFB Hoedspruit. The Agusta is tasked as an airborne command and control post for the Oryx.
To date the South African helicopter crews, assisted by operational medics have evacuated two pregnant women, both with complications, to Macoba and have also recovered a stranded Mozambican emergency services worker at Namarroi.
At the time of publication the airborne component of Operation Loapi had logged just on 10 flying hours. At least six sorties are planned to be flown in the next 24 hours assisting with movement of relief aid.
Indications are the deployment will return to South Africa by next Friday, meeting the original 14 day timeline set for it.
Tens of thousands of people have been displaced because of torrential rains in Mozambique. Four people have died in Mocuba, one of two districts badly affected by flooding, while an estimated 5 000 have sought refuge in government shelters. According to reports, the waters have risen to double the flooding threshold.
No SANDF members have been deployed in Malawi, which is also hit by floods. The South African humanitarian group, Gift of the Givers, has distributed numerous relief parcels to families in that country, who were displaced by floods.
The parcels – worth R500 each – contain staple food, blankets, eating utensils, water purification tablets and plastic sheets, the organisation’s founder Imtiaz Sooliman said on Saturday.
The eight-member team reached areas more than 100 km away from Blantyre, according to Sooliman, and distribution will also be carried out in Chikwana, Nsanje, Mangochi, Machinga, Balaka, Zomba, Phalombe and Mulanje regions, reports SANews.