The New Zealand Defence Force has placed at least 500 personnel, as well as aircraft and trucks on standby to help emergency response services deal with the devastating storm that is forecast to hammer the North Island from today.
Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant General Tim Keating, says one of the roles of the New Zealand Defence Force is to be ready to support the Government response to significant natural events 365 days of the year.
“Cyclone Cook is such an event, and the resources – equipment and personnel – that are required are being readied to respond to assist New Zealanders in need.”
Major General Tim Gall, the Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, says about 200 personnel across the country could be mobilised at two hours' notice.
A further 300 personnel had also been placed on standby to support the Government's response.
“We stand ready to help the local communities and have personnel and assets that can be mobilised at short notice to provide timely and effective support if required,” says Major General Gall.
“We recognise that the Easter break, which coincides with the school holidays, is a time for families to be together. But this is a time of need and our Defence Force expects its people to help out.
“The next 48 hours is critical. We have placed our personnel and assets across the country on standby so they can be deployed as quickly as possible.”
The NZDF had been working closely with the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management, which was leading the Government's response, Major General Gall says.
“Our staff have been liaising since Wednesday with civil defence authorities in areas that are forecast to be affected by the storm.”
The NZDF sent 50 personnel to Whanganui and Rangitikei to help evacuate residents, fill sandbags, check on residents in flood-affected areas and man cordons after the councils declared local states of emergency on 4 April.
Another 36 personnel, including six Military Police, were sent to Edgecumbe in Bay of Plenty last week to help New Zealand Police ensure residents in affected areas had evacuated and secure the cordons.