Australia bush fires: Singapore deploys two helicopters; ComfortDelGro sets up relief fund

Singapore deployed two helicopters to assist Australia's efforts to respond to a bush fire crisis that has killed 25 people, burned vast swathes of the country and destroyed about 2,000 homes.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison expressed thanks to his Singaporean counterpart, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, for the offer of support, saying two Chinook helicopters would travel to a staging point in the state of Victoria.

"Two Singapore Chinooks are preparing to deploy from Northern Australia to East Sale, which is our forward staging point in Victoria for those operations," Mr Morrison told reporters yesterday.

Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said on Facebook today that the two Singapore Chinooks took off from Oakey with 42 Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) personnel bound for East Sale this morning.

"Our Chinooks will bring in firefighting and relief supplies and also help evacuate residents from the affected areas," Dr Ng said.

"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.

Hundreds of fires are still blazing across Australia. Military aircraft and ships have been assisting with evacuations of residents and with providing supplies and relief.

Singapore operates Chinooks in Australia for training purposes under a training agreement between the two countries.

New Zealand's military is also providing Australia support to fight the bush fires. Several other countries have offered assistance.

Separately, home-grown transport giant ComfortDelGro Corp has set up a fund with an initial amount of A$250,000 (S$234,600) to contribute towards Australia's fight against its raging bush fires.

It is believed to be the first Singapore company to have done so.

With an extensive business presence Down Under, the Singapore-listed group set up the CDC We Care Fund to assist firefighting efforts and support families with immediate housing and living needs.

Announcing this yesterday, the group said ComfortDelGro Corp Australia (CDC) employees who have had to evacuate or have lost their homes as a result of the fires are eligible for individual grants.

The fund will be administered by CDC, which operates commuter, school and coach bus services and non-emergency patient transport in New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, the Northern Territory and Queensland, as well as taxi services in Western Australia and Victoria.

 
 
 
 

ComfortDelGro chief executive Yang Ban Seng said: "We have been closely following the situation in Australia, and are saddened by the tragic loss of life, both human and wildlife, as well as the impact on the environment.

"Having been operating in Australia since 2005, we are a part of the community and we could not watch idly by."

CDC chief executive Nicholas Yap added: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and communities who are affected by the bush fire crisis. At this difficult time, we are keen to do what we can to help the families in need."

Singapore Red Cross Society has also pledged $100,000 to support rescue and recovery missions in Australia and Indonesia.

The charity said yesterday it will be giving $50,000 in humanitarian aid to the Australian Red Cross. It has also started a public donation drive for the bush fires.

Mr Benjamin William, secretary-general and chief executive of the Singapore Red Cross, said the full devastation of the fire has not yet been felt.

"The crisis is expected to escalate in view of the strong winds and persistent drought... We continue to be in communication with our counterparts in the Australian Red Cross to ascertain needs and consider further support where needed," he said. •Additional reporting by Clement Yong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 07, 2020, with the headline 'Singapore to deploy copters; ComfortDelGro sets up relief fund'. Print Edition | Subscribe