The Australian Defence Force has successfully completed post-disaster recovery operations in Vanuatu with the last remaining personnel and equipment now in the process of returning to Australia.
More than 500 soldiers, sailors, aircrew deployed during Operation Pacific Assist 2015, providing help across the archipelago and significantly assisting the recovery process in the wake of category five Tropical Cyclone Pam.
Our troops have played a major part in the immediate relief effort, repairing key infrastructure, restoring basic services and delivering more than 115 tonnes of vital humanitarian assistance and disaster relief support throughout Vanuatu. Through their efforts, access to clean water has been restored, schools, community buildings and medical facilities have been repaired, and they ensured remote communities had access to food and shelter.
The initial ADF response included the rapid delivery of Australian aid and emergency personnel using Royal Australian Air Force C-17A Globemaster strategic transport aircraft and C-130J Hercules aircraft. AP-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft also provided reconnaissance support over Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands to provide emergency officials with a clearer picture of the damage caused by Tropical Cyclone Pam.
Military support was also provided by French, British and New Zealand Defence Forces.
HMAS Tobruk, an amphibious operations ship, was later deployed with Army engineers, vehicles and additional aid. On arrival, Tobruk provided the maritime base for much of the ADF’s high-tempo post-disaster recovery operations in the outer islands.
Tobruk offloaded tonnes of stores using two LARC-Vs amphibious cargo vehicles, two LCM-8 landing craft and an embarked Navy MRH-90 multi-role helicopter.
Army engineers from the Townsville-based 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment also made a significant contribution to the citizens of the worst affected southern islands of Tanna and Erromango.
On Tanna, engineers undertook tasks including restoring the water supply to the eight major population centres, repairs to four medical centres, four churches and 11 schools.
On nearby Erromango, a small group of engineers joined sailors from Tobruk in clearing storm damage from the communities of Dillon’s Bay and Happy Land. They also conducted route clearance tasks, infrastructure repairs and aid delivery.
Army also contributed three Black Hawk helicopters from the 6th Aviation Regiment.
This teamwork has been vital to get remote communities back on their feet, with Black Hawk crew working in partnership with New Zealand Army engineers to deliver stores and aid from the New Zealand multi-role naval vessel HMNZS Canterbury.
As with the Australian Defence Force operations in southern Vanuatu, the New Zealand troops have been repairing schools and medical facilities and have undertaken significant route clearance tasks to allow the local people’s lives to return to normal.
The RAAF, has flown more than 260 sorties in support of the mission; C17-A and C130-J aircraft flew aid, stores and personnel for the ADF, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and other responding agencies, while RAAF KA-350 King Air tactical aircraft worked tirelessly to provide inter-island transport.
The ADF’s tireless work ethic and commitment to help those in need has been invaluable in assisting the people of Vanuatu get their lives back on track.
Vanuatu will continue to receive assistance from the Australian Government and international agencies.
Video will be fed to all television networks via the Parliamentary Press Gallery.
Stills imagery will be available at: http://images.defence.gov.au/S20150922
All other images associated with OP Pacific Assist 2015 can be found at http://images.defence.gov.au/S20150618
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Chloe Petch (Minister Andrews’ Office): 0477 395 356
Defence Media Operations: 02 6127 1999