'That's exactly what neighbours are about': Australians welcome Singapore's help to fight bush fires

Republic of Singapore Air Force personnel loading supplies onto a Chinook bound for Royal Australian Air Force Base East Sale, Victoria. PHOTO: NG ENG NG/ FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - The Republic's deployment of two helicopters and 42 soldiers to Australia, in support of the country's ongoing efforts to put out raging bush fires that have destroyed more than 2,000 homes, has been welcomed by Australians and Singaporeans.

On Tuesday (Jan 7), Melbourne radio station ABC Melbourne put up a Facebook post thanking Singapore for its assistance, eliciting praise from hundreds of Facebook users.

"Fantastic Singapore! That's exactly what neighbours are about," one wrote.

"When tragedies strike, we humans have an amazing capacity, thank you Singapore. This is why we develop great relationships with our neighbouring countries," another commented.

On Monday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison thanked Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for offering help in the country's time of need.

Two Republic of Singapore Air Force Chinooks took off from Oakey, Australia, with 42 Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) personnel for Royal Australian Air Force Base East Sale, Victoria, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said in a Facebook post on the same day.

He said the helicopters will transport firefighting and relief supplies, as well as help evacuate residents from affected areas.

"Australia has welcomed SAF troops to train there for decades, and in their time of great need, it's only natural that the SAF do our best to help their people and communities affected by this unexpected natural disaster," he added.

Dr Ng noted that the bush fires, which began in November last year, have already destroyed more than six million hectares of land - "the size of 80 Singapores".

"As a small city state, it's hard for us to imagine the massive scale of the destruction wrought by the bushfires in Australia," he said.

The fires have claimed 25 lives.

The deployment also prompted some with links to the two countries to voice their appreciation. Facebook user Byron Chen, a Singaporean who has migrated to Australia, commented that it "really made me smile to see my home country jumping in to help out at my adopted home".

Mr Jason Ess, an Australian living in Singapore with his family, wrote: "I am feeling very proud and humbled by this."

Other organisations in Singapore have also responded to Australia's crisis, as fires are expected to continue with strong winds and persistent drought forecast.

The Singapore Red Cross Society on Monday pledged $50,000 in humanitarian aid to the Australian Red Cross and appealed for public donations.

Home-grown transport giant ComfortDelGro has likewise established a fund with an initial amount of A$250,000 (S$234,600). It also announced that its employees in Australia who have had to evacuate or who have lost their homes as a result of the fires are eligible for individual grants.

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