At present about 150 SA National Defence Force (SANDF) members whose musterings cover operational medicine, divers and the full spectrum of helicopter operations are ready to depart for Mozambique to assist wherever possible in a looming humanitarian crisis.
A 28 Squadron C-130BZ departed from AFB Waterkloof early today bound for the northern part of South Africa’s eastern neighbour following a request for assistance from the Mozambican government.
Joint Operations spokesman Captain (SAN) Jaco Theunissen said before departure that SANDF specialists were aboard and they would assess the situation on the ground in the Mocuba district of the Zambezia province. The aircraft is due to return to South Africa later today and a planning meeting will follow.
“This meeting will determine exactly what resources will be deployed to assist,” Lieutenant Colonel Piet Paxton said, adding the currently committed team numbers around the 150 mark comprising Navy divers, ops medics and a pair of Oryx medium transport helicopters with the full complement of personnel from aircrews through to ground crew, technical personnel and a MAOT (Mobile Air Operations Team).
“That’s what has been earmarked but could change dependent on the assessment brought back from Mozambique,” he said.
Paxton said the first task of those deployed to Mozambique would be to rescue people from dangerous and life-threatening situations with other humanitarian work following, such as preventing disease and ensuring potable water and delivery of food.
Indications are that at least a thousand people have been left homeless after rivers burst their banks and some are reported to be on the roofs of houses waiting for water levels to drop.
Mozambican authorities have since last week been warning resident of low-lying areas to evacuate after rainfall in excess of 200 mm in a few days. Reports have it that eight people have drowned and 18 children are apparently missing in Mocuba.