10 Oct 2009

NZ navy ship leaves for tsunami-hit nations

2:44 pm on 10 October 2009

The navy vessel HMNZS Canterbury left Auckland on Saturday afternoon to deliver tsunami relief to Tonga and Samoa.

Its cargo includes 12 shipping containers of donated goods bound for Samoa, specialist supplies and items requested by the two countries' governments.

Delegations from both the Samoan and Tongan communities gathered at Auckland's naval base on Saturday morning as the ship prepared to leave.

Hundreds of volunteers in Auckland packed the donated goods for shipping.

Samoa Tsunami Appeal spokesperson Michael Jones said about 30 representatives were allowed onto the base to farewell the ship, but the whole community would have turned up if they could have to express their gratitude and thanks.

A further 15 shipping containers will be sent on a commercial vessel, and 15 pallets of goods are being sent to Tonga.

Donations include canned food, cooking utensils, tents, sanitary goods and construction materials

Defence Minister Wayne Mapp says a Seasprite helicopter is also on board to survey damage in the tsunami hit areas.

HMNZS Canterbury will be used to help the Tonga government transport supplies from the capital to remote Niuatoputapu, where nine people were killed in the tsunami.

The death toll in Samoa stands at 143, at least 33 people died in American Samoa and nine died on Niuatoputapu after a magnitude 8.0 quake triggered a tsunami in the Pacific on 29 September.