Singapore Armed Forces concludes relief mission in Nepal

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has concluded its relief efforts in Nepal, said the Ministry of Defence in a statement today, May 11.

The SAF relief contingent arrived in Singapore this afternoon after 12 days of deployment in Nepal.

Those deployed consisted of 38 people, including a medical team as well as staff from the Changi Regional Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Coordination Centre (RHCC).

Seven staff members from the Ministry of Health (MOH) and eight staff members from the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) had worked together with SAF's medical team.

The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) C-120 aircraft made a total of 11 flights to Nepal since April 26. The trips were to transport people, equipment, relief supplies and also to evacuate 71 Singaporeans - along with 24 other nationals - from Nepal.

The combined medical team, which was based in Gokarna, treated some 3,000 patients for injuries sustained in the earthquake, disaster-related illnesses and common ailments.

The Changi RHCC worked closely with the Nepalese Army to support them in co-ordinating relief efforts using the Changi RHCC's OPERA Command and Control Information System.

The SAF also donated $150,000 worth of humanitarian aid supplies to Nepal, including tents, blankets, portable lights and food.

Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen received the returning personnel at Paya Lebar Air Base and was accompanied by senior SAF officers including Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant-General Ng Chee Meng, Chief of Air Force Major-General Hoo Cher Mou and Chief of Army Major-General Perry Lim.

Also in attendance were Minister of State for Health Dr Lam Pin Min and Bruneian High Commissioner Haji Awang Saifulbahri bin Haji Mansor.

Dr Ng acknowledged the contributions of all the servicemen and women and commended them on the significant role they played in the multinational relief efforts in Nepal.

He said: "I am very happy that Singaporeans have a big heart and when others are in need, they step up. All around, I think this has been a very good mission.

"We have been able to do what we wanted to do, and of course, we offer our deepest condolences to the people in Nepal."

Here is the response to questions regarding Singapore's efforts in rendering help to Nepal from Members of Parliament Ms Irene Ng and Mr Ang Wei Neng as provided by Second Minister for Home Affairs and Second Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr Masagos Zulkifli in Parliament on May 11:

Within hours of receiving the shocking and sad news, the Singapore government mobilised a disaster relief team for deployment to Nepal in aid of relief efforts. The Home Team mounted its largest-ever deployment for an overseas disaster relief operation. The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) formed "Operation Lionheart (Nepal, Earthquake)" - the 14th such Lionheart mission - comprising a 60-member search-and-rescue team. In addition, a 66-member strong Singapore Police Force (SPF) contingent, including Gurkha Contingent (GC) officers, was also deployed to Nepal. Over the course of the deployment, the SCDF and SPF contingents operated in several areas in Nepal, such as Lalitpur district around Kathmandu, Pokhara and Gorkha. The SCDF and SPF contingents worked with the Nepalese authorities and other foreign teams to provide humanitarian assistance, including search-and-rescue, relief aid and medical assistance, to the affected people, with the GC officers helping to facilitate relief operations as they were familiar with the language, terrain and local communities. MFA also despatched a four-person Crisis Response Team to Kathmandu to provide consular assistance to Singaporeans stranded in Nepal. Our Embassy in New Delhi also sent an officer to support the team subsequently.

At the same time, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) immediately mobilised a joint medical team of 22 personnel and an advance team of six personnel from the Changi Regional Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) Coordination Centre or RHCC. C-130 aircraft were also deployed to airlift the personnel, equipment and relief supplies into Kathmandu. A further six personnel from the Changi RHCC were deployed together with additional medical supplies. Eight members of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces and seven members from the Ministry of Health were also deployed together with the SAF's medical team. The combined medical team, to date, treated more than 3,000 patients. The RHCC assisted Nepalese national disaster management authorities and military with their efforts to coordinate the relief efforts. 11 sorties have been flown in and out of Kathmandu by the Republic of Singapore Air Force, transporting more than 100 tonnes of equipment and relief supplies, various Singapore contingents, as well as evacuating Singaporeans from Nepal.

Madam Speaker, the officers involved in this disaster relief effort have worked tirelessly, often times under trying conditions. I would like to express my appreciation to all of them for their dedication and hard work, and to their family members for their support.

In addition to mobilising our assets, the Singapore government contributed a total of S$250,000 through the Singapore Red Cross (SRC). An initial S$100,000 was given as seed money to help kick-start the SRC donation drive. However, as news of the severity and scale of the disaster became clearer, and there were increasing calls for international aid, we increased our contribution by another S$150,000, to support SRC's efforts to purchase emergency supplies. To date, SRC has raised more than S$4.5 million, sent 14 personnel, including two medical teams with a total of 11 personnel, and S$200,000 worth of emergency supplies and relief items including food, household kits and shelter tool kits to Nepal.

This financial contribution complements the on-going efforts by Singaporeans and Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) to raise funds for the relief efforts in Nepal. Many Singaporeans have been moved by the tragedy. They have dug deep into their pockets and contributed generously. Other NGOs including Mercy Relief and religious organisations have also raised more than S$800,000 to date, many of them mounting medical and humanitarian missions to Nepal. The government of Nepal has expressed appreciation for Singapore's assistance and support to Nepal and the Nepalese people.

Madam Speaker, I would like to assure the house that in the midst of these relief efforts, the government also spared no effort in looking after the welfare of Singaporeans affected by the disaster in Nepal. MFA's Crisis Response Team arrived in Kathmandu within a day to assist Singaporeans wishing to return home. MINDEF facilitated the return of 71 Singaporeans, along with 24 other nationals, on the returning C-130 aircraft. Throughout the crisis, MFA continued to reach out to Singaporeans in Nepal to render assistance, and within five days of the earthquake, accounted for the safety of all Singaporeans who eRegistered with MFA. Madam Speaker, one takeaway for me from this crisis is: Help us to help yourselves. I would therefore like to take this opportunity to encourage Singaporeans travelling overseas to eRegister so that we can contact you or your Next-of-Kin promptly in the event of a crisis.

As for Mr Ang's question of what assistance Singapore has rendered to help Nepal recover, at present, international efforts are still focused on disaster relief and humanitarian aid. We will continue to do what is within our means to assist and support Nepal during this difficult time.

Madam Speaker, in conclusion, I would also like to express our deepest condolences to the government and people of Nepal during this difficult period, and to extend comfort to the families of our Gurkha contingent in Singapore.