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Saturday, 4 March, 2000, 10:44 GMT
Tough mission for UK lifeboat crews
Namburete and Canavan
Lifeboatmen Aguinaldo Namburete (left) and Ian Canavan
Eight British lifeboatmen are due to arrive in Mozambique later on Saturday to help rescue survivors from the catastrophic floods.

The crewmen, who include a native of Mozambique who has been studying in Wales, are taking with them seven inflatable dinghies.

The D-Class lifeboats have been deflated and shrink-wrapped and will be reassembled and re-inflated when they arrive in Maputo around 1800 GMT.

The boats, worth 14,000 each, are designed to work inshore in shallow water.

110 lifeboats are being sent
The team is led by Ian Canavan, 35, from Dublin, and includes two other RNLI employees, Glen Mallen, 26, and Gary Payne, 38, both from the Isle of Wight.

Before he left Mr Canavan said: "The conditions will make the mission very difficult, but our main aim is to complement what the helicopters are doing.

"Helicopters can find it difficult to get to people stranded by water and we can go in the boats and pick them up."

'Itching to get out there'

Also going are volunteers Jim Hughen, 47, from Broughty Ferry, Tayside, Ian Parker, 35, from Mudeford, Dorset, Andrew Vye-Parmenter, 25, and Michael Kingston, 42, from Penarth, south Wales and Aguinaldo Namburete, 20, from St David's, Wales.

RNLI spokeswoman Tanya Hall said Aguinaldo, who was studying seamanship at the Atlantic College in St Donat's, was "itching to get back to Mozambique to help out his countrymen".

She told BBC News Online: "His family are safe and well in another part of Mozambique, but he wants to get out there and do what he can for his people.

"Obviously he will help the team overcome the language barrier and he also has knowledge of local geography and customs, which will be invaluable."

Aguinaldo, who left Mozambique in 1998, said: "I feel obliged to do what I can to help them.

"Normally when I visit home it is a happy occasion with lots of smiling faces, but it will be different this time, I expect to see people crying rather than smiling when I meet them."

Third international mission

For the eight lifeboatmen it is the first time they have worked abroad, but it is not the first time the RNLI has come to the rescue during foreign disasters.

In 1970 the charity sent help out to East Pakistan, after cyclonic floods caused mayhem, and in 1988 they returned to the country, then called Bangladesh, to help out again.

Mozambican refugees
Large parts of Mozambique are underwater
But Ms Hall said: "Neither of those disasters were on the same scale as the one in Mozambique."

The RNLI team will spend about 24 hours acclimatising and assembling their boats before being assigned to whichever part of the country they are needed in.

Ms Hall said they would stay for around two weeks and would then be refreshed with fresh volunteers.

She said each member of the team had received jabs against malaria, yellow fever, cholera and other tropical diseases, and had been given special survival training.

"We had literally hundreds of people volunteering to help out but we only had limited space on the plane," said Ms Hall.

One of the volunteers, Mr Hughen, said: "We are prepared mentally for what we expect to find, but whether the reality is the same as this we do not know."

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See also:

04 Mar 00 |  UK
RAF crews join aid effort
03 Mar 00 |  Africa
Rescue operation changes gear
03 Mar 00 |  UK Politics
Mozambique aid rift denied
28 Feb 00 |  Africa
Long task ahead for aid workers
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