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Army relief team ready to depart

Friday 26 February 2010 | Published in Regional

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The Royal New Zealand Defence Force team stationed on Aitutaki is preparing to withdraw from the island this weekend.

Since arriving on the island on Monday February 15, the team of 12 led by Sergeant Glenn Abbot has been helping the community get back on its feet.

The team’s first task was to erect tents for families who lost their homes and help other put up tarpaulins on their roofs.

The team has worked on the hospital and with general clean up duties while the two electricians and one plumber have been working overtime to check wiring inside people’s homes.

The defence force has been able to make the water station in Arutanga more accessible to the community by building a bench for the 5000-litre water bladder, a shelter for the water purifying machine and pump, connecting a series of taps to the water bladder and a soak pit to prevent the ground turning to sludge. The set up allows people to fill up their containers with water at any time.

The defence force made an initial commitment to two weeks on the island and that time ends at the weekend.

However, Abbot says that while his team is now just doing minor work, they would really like to begin work on rebuilding Araura College.

Work on the college has been delayed due to bad weather and the fact that the cargo ship Southern Phoenix was unable to fully offload cargo, which includes much needed building materials, due to rough seas.

Just 10 of the 25 containers on the ship were able to be offloaded on Monday.

While the majority of the wood and roofing iron was offloaded – fixtures needed for building remain on the ship.

Attempts were made again yesterday afternoon to offload the cargo but it looked unlikely with the island still experiencing rough seas and heavy rain.

On board the ship are also fuel and food for the island.

Meanwhile the army continues to help families on the island and await confirmation of their departure.

Abbot and his team have been overwhelmed by the hospitality of people on the island – despite the challenging time they are facing.

“I’ve worked in disaster zones all over the world, but the hospitality on the island is second to none,” said Abbot.

“We would really like to get the school rebuilt before we leave.”

Abbot also added that if his team is needed to help the people on Penrhyn, the men were more than ready to go north.