SINGAPORE: Two Chinook helicopters from the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) will be used to bring in firefighting and relief supplies and to help evacuate people from areas affected by the Australian bushfires.
The Chinooks took off from Oakey, Australia with 42 Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) soldiers bound for the Royal Australian Air Force base in East Sale, Victoria, said Singapore Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen in a Facebook post on Tuesday (Jan 7).
Singapore soldiers will work alongside the Australian Defence Force to help with relief efforts, Dr Ng added.
“Our Chinooks will bring in firefighting and relief supplies and also help evacuate residents from the affected areas," the minister said.
His announcement comes a day after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Singapore would deploy two Chinook helicopters to help tackle the bushfire crisis.
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."
Raging bushfires have killed more than 20 people across southeastern Australia.
More than 60,000 sq km have been burnt across the country in the months-long crisis. The bushfire season started earlier than normal this year following a three-year drought that has left much of the country's bushland tinder-dry and vulnerable to fires.
“Still raging, the bushfires have already destroyed more than 6 million hectares – 80 Singapores! – and killed half a billion animals, not to mention the tragic loss of human lives,” Dr Ng said.
Forty-one United States firefighters are in Victoria with another 70 from Canada and the US expected to join on Jan 8, the Victoria Country Fire Authority said on Twitter.
In the biggest-ever call up of reserves, military teams were deployed across eastern Australia to help emergency services assess the damage, restore power and deliver supplies of food, water and fuel to cut-off communities.
For the first time in Australian history, the government also deployed its medical assistance team - normally sent to other nations to lend support in the aftermath of their disasters - to help evacuees.