Scottish troops who travelled to New Zealand to compete in one of the world’s toughest outdoor events have been diverted to help with the flooding state of emergency in New Zealand’s South Island.
Eight members of the Highlanders, 4th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (4 Scots) were in New Zealand for the first time training ahead of the 2017 Twin Peaks Battle Tab, a gruelling and arduously challenging 26-kilometre race up the highest peaks surrounding Dunedin, wearing full battle gear and carrying Steyr rifles.
However ferocious storms at the weekend caused landslides, flooding and power cuts leading to hundreds of residents being evacuated from their homes.
The race was cancelled and the Scottish soldiers volunteered their services, working alongside New Zealand Defence Force personnel to support flood-stricken communities in emergency zones in Christchurch, Timaru District, Otago and Dunedin.
New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English went on Twitter writing that his thoughts were with those affected by the weather events and urged people to “take care of each other.”
Captain Mathew Rupasinha, platoon commander of 4 Scots, said eight soldiers who had been training for the race were delighted to join in with 120 New Zealand Defence Force soldiers and other troops who were also training for the event, in the emergency effort.
“It was great to be able to help the local communities. We were sent to communities south of Mosgiel to check that residents have evacuated to safer ground.
“We were sent to communities south of Mosgiel, Dunedin, to check that residents have evacuated to safer ground.
“This is the first time we’ve all been to New Zealand and also the first time for us to help out in a flood response.
“The people were very warm and friendly - they were grateful.”
Capt. Rupasinha added that the men who had arrived in New Zealand in mid-July had spent the last week preparing for the race organised by the 2nd/4th Battalion Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment and acclimatising to the wintery weather conditions.
“The team was disappointed the race was cancelled but we do recognise that the weather is beyond our control,” Capt. Rupasinha said.
“Our regiment has a long history of engagement with the New Zealand Army. We fought alongside each other in the two world wars and, most recently, in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
The country’s meteorological service said some areas received more than triple the monthly average rainfall in two days.
The heaviest recorded fall was 266 millimetres, north of Dunedin over a 48-hour period.
The Dunedin Civil Defence said despite emergency services’ best efforts, it would take “months” to clear all the landslips.