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Locals sent to crisis zone

wta220816gffiona01 Fiona Flis of Masterton is a Wairarapa Red Cross volunteer who has taken teams of helpers to Havelock North. PHOTO/GERALD FORD

By Gerald Ford

When Havelock North was hit with an estimated 4100 cases of campylobacter caused by contaminated water volunteers from Wairarapa were called in to help. Fiona Flis has been a Red Cross volunteer for close to 20 years, and a registered nurse for 7 of those.

In Wairarapa there are 15 active members that can be called in for emergencies. They meet every two weeks to “train for every possibility – first aid, emergencies, earthquake, tsunami, flooding, and Civil Defence emergencies which this one is.

Fiona said when a situation progresses beyond what a region can cope with, a local Civil Defence will contact the Red Cross.

New Zealand Red Cross response manager Graeme Brown liaised with the Hastings District Council about necessary tasks.He then contacted Red Cross teams from around the country, beginning with the closest regions. In Havelock North, teams were sent in from regions as far afield as Auckland, Tauranga, Christchurch, Rotorua Wanganui, Kapiti-Mana and Hamilton, as well as Wairarapa.

Mr Brown’s role is to contact the team leader, in this case Fiona, and asks her to put the team on standby. This sometimes involves the team finding cover for their paid jobs – or in some cases, approving leave from school – as five members of the Wairarapa team are boys from Wairarapa College.

Ten Wairarapa volunteers were deployed to Havelock North last week for two days, and three more left on Sunday with Fiona who was going back for a second trip. The Wairarapa teams were accommodated at Kennedy Park camping ground.

In the township the team was involved with targeted relief. The council had telephoned every resident older than 65 to ensure their safety, and the Red Cross followed up those who could not be contacted. The Red Cross volunteers delivered food parcels and bottled water to people so sick they couldn’t leave home.

This included a woman and her seven children, all of whom were sick, and the husband had a pre-existing medical condition.

The team also visited schools teaching correct hand-washing techniques and they were also able to pass on health tips like using bottled or boiled water to brush teeth, not just for drinking. “A lot of them went, ‘Ohh” … so there was a little bit of health education.”

Mr Brown said the volunteers “do a fantastic job … and it has been well received by the council and the residents”.

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