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U.S. Navy Destroyer, P-3 Responding To Earthquake In New Zealand

Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Sampson (DDG 102), right, conducts a replenishment-at-sea with Her Majesty’s New Zealand Ship Endeavour (A11). Sampson will report to U.S. Third Fleet, headquartered in San Diego, while deployed to the Western Pacific as part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet-led initiative to extend the command and control functions of Third Fleet into the region.The destroyer's stop at a New Zealand port would be the first for a U.S. warship in more than 30 years. US Navy photo.

Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Sampson (DDG 102), right, conducts a replenishment-at-sea with Her Majesty’s New Zealand Ship Endeavour (A11) on Nov. 13, 2016. Sampson will report to U.S. Third Fleet, headquartered in San Diego, while deployed to the Western Pacific as part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet-led initiative to extend the command and control functions of Third Fleet into the region.The destroyer’s stop at a New Zealand port would be the first for a U.S. warship in more than 30 years. US Navy photo.

The U.S. Navy is responding to a 7.5 magnitude earthquake off the coast of New Zealand, diverting a destroyer from a historic visit to New Zealand and instead evacuating local civilians and tourists and delivering humanitarian aid supplies.

New Zealand’s Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee said in a media statement today that the area around Kaikoura, a town on the northeast side of the South Island, “is completely isolated after the magnitude 7.5 earthquake and subsequent landslides.”

Providing supplies and evacuating tourists are the top priorities, he said, as damage assessments continue.

The New Zealand Defence Force mobilized four NH-90 helicopters, the first of which has already evacuated a dozen people this morning, and one P-3 Orion maritime surveillance aircraft.

A P-3 from Patrol Squadron (VP) 47 out of Marine Corps Base Hawaii has already begun flying surveillance missions around Kaikoura. The plane was already in New Zealand for Exercise Mahi Tangaroa, which falls under New Zealand’s International Naval Review being held this week. The turboprop patrol plane can conduct wide-area maritime search operations, which give the aircraft an advantage for search and rescue missions, according to a Navy news release.

“From the moment we got the word, our aircrew and maintenance professionals have thrown themselves into this relief effort with a commitment that is just so much a part of what our maritime patrol and reconnaissance force stands for,” Cmdr. Ryan C. Cech, commanding officer of VP 47, said in the U.S. Navy statement.
“I am proud we can assist our New Zealand partners in their time of need.”

The U.S. Navy also offered help from guided-missile destroyer USS Sampson (DDG-102), which was already in the Hauraki Gulf – on the northern end of the North Island of New Zealand – for the naval review.

Cmdr. Timothy Labenz, commanding officer of Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Sampson (DDG 102), hails Her Majesty’s New Zealand Ship Endeavour (A11) before a replenishment-at-sea on Nov. 13, 2016. Sampson's visit to New Zealand is the first for a U.S. warship in more than 30 years. US Navy photo.

Cmdr. Timothy Labenz, commanding officer of Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Sampson (DDG 102), hails Her Majesty’s New Zealand Ship Endeavour (A11) before a replenishment-at-sea on Nov. 13, 2016. Sampson’s visit to New Zealand is the first for a U.S. warship in more than 30 years. US Navy photo.

Sampson’s ability to quickly respond to the disaster relief mission is noteworthy – Sampson’s visit to New Zealand is the first for a U.S. warship in more than 30 years, after New Zealand banned nuclear warships and the U.S. Navy then decided not to send any of its ships there due to a policy of not stating whether a platform did or did not carry nuclear weapons. The two navies have continued to work closely together in bilateral and multilateral exercises, many of them focused on the type of humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HA/DR) mission Sampson will perform. Breaking that stalemate on port visits, the two navies had agreed Sampson would participate in the naval review to commemorate the Royal New Zealand Navy’s 75th anniversary. Instead of joining in the pageantry, the destroyer found itself involved in a real operational mission.

The Royal New Zealand Navy has an offshore patrol vessel, HMNZS Wellington, that is making its way to Kaikoura to determine whether the HMNZS Canterbury (L421) multi-role sealift vessel could pull into the town’s dock or would have to anchor offshore. Canterbury has landing craft that could bring food, water and supplies ashore if the ship cannot directly reach the port.

Brownlee said in his statement that he hoped to evacuate about 140 people on a priority list, which includes stranded tourists, today, as well as begin to clear inland routes to reach affected towns further south.

  • Joey Joe-Joe Junior Shabadoo

    I wonder will any humanitarian efforts be blockaded by all the protest flotillas that are amassing to interrupt the US destroyers visit?

    • Murray

      Just to clarify that it is only Sampson’s two SH-60R helicopters that will be tasked to evacuate tourists from Kaikoura. The Sampson arrived in Auckland Harbour today (there were no protests), a day earlier than planned due to a forecast of seriously adverse weather tomorrow. The two Seahawks will support evacuations currently underway by RNZAF NH-90 and SH-2G(I) choppers. The Amphibious Sealift Ship HMNZS Canterbury and OPV HMNZS Wellington have arrived today off Kaikoura and it is not yet clear whether the Seahawks will be used for transfers to these two vessels or will take evacuees southward for onward transfer to land transport.
      While there are a few misguided individuals that will no doubt protest the Sampson’s visit, most Kiwis are pleased to see the USN back in New Zealand and are grateful for your assistance with our current civil emergency.

      • Bill

        Having just enjoyed 10 days in NZ this September, including the sadly damaged Christchurch, I am so glad that the USN is on the scene to offer help.

        • Murray

          Since my first post I have now ascertained that the USS Sampson is indeed heading south to Kaikoura along with frigates HMNZS Te Kaha, HMCS Halifax and HMAS Darwin, the LPD RSS Resolution and the AOR HMNZS Endeavour. The helicopters from this Task Group will be taking supplies to communities isolated by landslips caused by the major earthquake.
          This isn’t the first time the USN has come to the aid of the people of New Zealand in an emergency. On March 11, 1845 the Maori Chief Hone Heke sacked the town of Kororareka (now Russell) in the Bay of Islands. The frigate USS St. Louis, which was protecting US interests at Kororareka, evacuated 125 civilians to Auckland. Captain McKeever, the commander of the St. Louis, won praise from the British for his courage and humanity in sending unarmed boats ashore, frequently while under fire, to bring off women and children.

      • vol_in_socal

        Thanks. Very little news coverage here (except for the cows).

  • Hugh

    Five years ago an earthquake devastated Christchurch and its port of Littleton. In 1931 a magnitude 7.8 earthquake damaged Napier and surrounds, killing 256. The death toll might have been much higher had the Royal Navy ship HMS Veronica not been in port at the time. Within minutes of the shock the Veronica had sent radio messages asking for help. The sailors joined survivors to fight the fires, rescue trapped people and help give them medical treatment. The Veronica’s radio was used to transmit news of the disaster to the outside world and to seek assistance. The crew from two cargo ships, the Northumberland and Taranaki, also joined the rescue works, while two cruisers, HMS Diomede and HMS Dunedin, were dispatched from Auckland that afternoon with food, tents, medicine, blankets, and a team of doctors and nurses.

  • RobM1981

    A Global Force For Good.

    I’d venture to guess that morale is sky high on board Sampson.

    Walk tall, Sailors. Well done.