Australia and NZ sending cyclone relief to Vanuatu

Photo: NZ Defence Force

Australia and New Zealand are sending humanitarian supplies to Vanuatu after the nation was hit by two cyclones within days of each other.

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced the departure of a Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 Hercules from Whenuapai, carrying water containers, temporary shelter kits and family hygiene packages.

“Cyclones Judy and Kevin damaged homes, livelihoods, infrastructure and caused the loss of communications in some areas. The full extent of the impact of the cyclones is still to be assessed,” Mahuta said.

She also announced the deployment of a seven-member team of disaster management experts to assist with the response, including members from Fire and Emergency New Zealand’s Urban Search and Rescue team, the New Zealand Defence Force and MFAT.

“This initial package of assistance includes a financial contribution of $150,000 (US$93,000) to allow the New Zealand High Commission to respond rapidly to requests from the Government of Vanuatu,” she added. “Our whānau in Vanuatu are very much in our thoughts.”

But the Vanuatu response will not affect Aotearoa’s own Cyclone Gabrielle response and recovery, which “remains our top priority”, Mahuta said.

She added that the NZ Government is working closely with Vanuatu, as well as France and Australia, in its recovery response.

“We have first-hand experience of the challenges that Vanuatu will face in the coming days and weeks, and are watching the situation closely.

“We will continue to work closely with our partners and respond to Government of Vanuatu’s requests for assistance where we can,” Mahuta said.

HMAS Canberra deployed to Vanuatu

Meanwhile, the Australian Government has deployed HMAS Canberra following a request from the Government of Vanuatu.

The 230-metre long Landing Helicopter Dock has completed loading equipment, stores and personnel and sail from its homeport of Sydney to Vanuatu to provide support to the country following Tropical Cyclones Judy and Kevin.

The Ship and more than 600 ADF personnel will bring a versatile set of capabilities to support the Whole-of-Government response to the cyclones, led by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

The deployment of HMAS Canberra follows two Royal Australian Air Force aircraft which have already reached the Vanuatu capital of Port Vila.

A C-17A Globemaster has delivered a 12-person Rapid Assessment Team and Australia’s initial humanitarian assistance, which includes, shelters, water purification supplies and other essential items for impacted communities.

Deputy Prime Minister, Richard Marles said: “HMAS Canberra has a significant capacity to provide ship-to-shore connections via its Landing Craft and three embarked Australian Army CH-47 helicopters, fresh water and has its own hospital facilities.

“The ADF personnel on board bring recent experience from other relief efforts in the region over the past two years and Defence is proud to support a member of the Pacific family.”

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Penny Wong said: “With HMAS Canberra we are providing more humanitarian supplies and much needed logistical support. This shows our continued commitment to the Pacific family.”

Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Pat Conroy said: “The Pacific family can rely on Australia to work with them in times of crisis.”