The series of tsunami that hit the Pacific in September caused widespread loss of life and damage in what were previously idyllic seaside villages.
Adham Crichton details New Zealand's comprehensive response to the tragedy and provides information about the work of non-government organisations on the ground.
When the waves hit
On 30 September (New Zealand time) a magnitude 8.3 earthquake struck off the coast of Samoa. This earthquake caused only minor damage, but the tsunami that swiftly followed it were ferocious and destructive. In Samoa, American Samoa, and Tonga over 180 people were killed and many were left injured. For some survivors the tsunamis washed away everything: family, homes, possessions, businesses, and livelihoods.
In the immediate aftermath of the tsunami New Zealand provided substantial emergency assistance from a range of government agencies.
New Zealand made an initial $2 million available for the emergency relief effort in Samoa and Tonga to:
- purchase priority supplies and services (for example relief items and medical supplies)
- provide a grant to the NZ Red Cross ($150,000) for emergency supplies
- provide further grants to New Zealand non-government organisations for relief and recovery activities ($600,000).
The New Zealand response
In the days and weeks following the tsunami, a whole of Government approach was taken by New Zealand. This saw NZAID and the wider Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF), the Ministry of Health, New Zealand Police, the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management, the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs, New Zealand Customs Service, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and the Ministry of Social Development working together with their Samoan and Tongan counterparts, the Red Cross and NGOs to respond to the Pacific tsunami.
- There was a strong level of cooperation with France and Australia under the FRANZ Arrangement in the coordination of relief supplies and defence force assets.
- Over 250 personnel from the New Zealand Navy, Army, and Air Force were involved in a range of tasks.
- A total of 43 New Zealand medical personnel were deployed through district health boards and the Ministry of Health.
- New Zealand Defence Force Environmental Health Officers worked with Samoan and Tongan Ministries of Health and other environmental health agencies to establish the needs of people displaced by the tsunamis.
- New Zealand mental health staff also played a role in establishing 'train the trainer' courses for school teachers in Samoa to ensure they are equipped to support young people through their grief.
- More than 12,000 kg of medical equipment and supplies and 22,000 kg of general aid including tents, caskets, chainsaws, tools, shelter boxes, tarps, food, water was airlifted to Samoa after the tsunami.
- HMNZS Canterbury delivered aid including 80 tonnes of general aid, 6 tonnes medical equipment and medical supplies, 7 tonnes of plumbing supplies, 128 tonnes of powerpoles and fale poles, and 4 tonnes of electrical supplies.
- The Royal New Zealand Navy Dive Team repaired and replaced fresh water pipelines between Manono and Namua Islands off the coast of Upolu.
- New Zealand Police provided disaster victim identification specialists to help identify bodies and return them to their families, radio technicians to establish a police radio network on the south coast, and 12 specialist search staff and four victim recovery dogs and their handlers to search for bodies.
- Two officials from the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management assisted disaster management offices in Samoa and Tonga.
- Two New Zealand structural engineers provided advice on the integrity and safety of infrastructure and public buildings.
- The Government's assistance has been matched by an outpouring of generosity from the public including fundraising, and the collection of goods required by those affected by the tsunami. NZAID received over 300 individual offers of assistance.
- A large number of New Zealand NGOs were either directly involved in the response or ran appeals to help support relief and recovery efforts, including; UNICEF New Zealand, Save the Children New Zealand, Rotary New Zealand, Oxfam New Zealand,