Nepal earthquake: SAF sends multi-agency disaster relief team to Nepal

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Armed Forces sent a cross-agency disaster relief team to Nepal on Sunday evening, in the wake of a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake on Saturday that has racked up a death toll of more than 2,000.

Two Republic of Singapore Air Force C-130 aircraft with an advance team of six personnel from the Changi Regional Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) Coordination Centre onboard took off from Paya Lebar Air Base at 5pm on Sunday, the Ministry of Defence said in a statement.

The relief team also includes a 69-member Home Team contingent, comprising officers from the Singapore Civil Defence Force's (SCDF) Ops Lionheart team.

Led by Lieutenant-Colonel Alvin Tan, commander of the 3rd SCDF Division, the team - formed by regular officers and NSmen - will support search and rescue and other disaster relief efforts in Nepal.

A third aircraft, with a contingent from the police, including members of its Gurkha unit, and a second batch of SCDF officers, is scheduled to leave tomorrow (April 27) morning.

The total flight time to Nepal is about 9 1/2 hours.

The Changi RHCC will assist the Nepalese national disaster management authorities and military with their efforts to coordinate the relief efforts.

The Changi RHCC, which became fully operational this year, is set up to coordinate and support the HADR efforts of foreign militaries. The centre complements other mechanisms, such as the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA Centre) and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The multi-agency contingent was sent off at Paya Lebar Air Base by Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs, as well as Lieutenant-General Ng Chee Meng, the Chief of Defence Force.

yanliang@sph.com.sg