Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

NZ air force joins relief efforts in Philippines

Key says Hercules is taking aid but he's postponing official visit to Manila.

Typhoon survivors in Tacloban head for a United States military transport plane. Photo/ AP
Typhoon survivors in Tacloban head for a United States military transport plane. Photo/ AP

New Zealand will send an air force Hercules to help in the storm-hit Philippines, but Prime Minister John Key's official visit to Manila next week has been postponed.

Mr Key said a visit next week would place "undue pressure on the Philippines Government at a critical time" after Typhoon Haiyan.

He said the Hercules - carrying emergency supplies - would leave in the next couple of days. "[It] will remain in the area for at least four to five days to provide transport support to relief efforts as required."

He said New Zealand would also launch a $2.3 million initiative with the Philippines Red Cross to bolster disaster relief supplies for the future.

"The Philippines, like New Zealand, is extremely vulnerable to natural disaster. Pre-positioning supplies at various locations around the country will mean that relief items can get to affected communities without delay."

The initiative was in addition to the $2.15 million announced as New Zealand's response to the typhoon.

"We ... will work with the Philippines Government to meet any further requests for assistance," said Mr Key, who leaves today for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Sri Lanka and an official visit to Thailand.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was helping "a handful"of families still trying to contact loved ones in the Philippines, which is struggling with communications breakdowns in storm-hit areas.

A total of 376 New Zealanders are registered with the ministry as being in the Philippines, but none has been reported as harmed.

In Auckland, the Philippine community has begun fundraising rallies in a bid to get emergency aid, food, water and medicine to the worst hit provinces. The Federation of Filipino Associations, Societies and Clubs in NZ has set up a special "Yolanda" - the English translation of Haiyan - account to help victims.

A spokesman for the NZ Philippines Business Council said it was hard to find a Filipino whose families or friends were not caught up in the typhoon.

"It's terrible times in the Philippines. We may live in another country now, but our roots are still there."

Last night a special Mass was held at St Patrick's Cathedral.

- NZ Herald

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