Australia has started humanitarian flights from its Amberley and Richmond bases to Port Vila, delivering much needed supplies to the devastated nation following Tropical Cyclone Pam.
Defence Minister Kevin Andrews said on Sunday two RAAF C-17A Globemaster aircraft were delivering critical humanitarian aid and disaster relief supplies to Vanuatu.
Andrews said the humanitarian aid flights, which carried items such as hygiene kits, blankets, sleeping mats, shelter kits, insect nets, water storage buckets and water purification tablets, were expected to continue for several days.
Meanwhile, officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and emergency evaluation personnel were also on the ground in Port Vila to “gather valuable information that will guide the types and priority of Australian Government aid to Vanuatu”, having made their way there on a RAAF C-130J Hercules on Sunday.
And a RAAF AP-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft was headed to northern Vanuatu for imagery reconnaissance flights. One AP-3C Orion was already in the Solomon Islands.
“I am assured by Defence that our contribution to the DFAT-led mission is positioned to expand as the situation in Vanuatu becomes clearer,” Andrews said in a statement.
“Nationally, Defence assets remain on standby to provide further assistance, however the immediate priority is to move life-saving aid to Vanuatu and to assist their officials to understand what specialist capabilities are needed and who is best placed to provide those assets and materials.
“Our thoughts remain with those who are affected by these natural disasters, including those here in Australia.”
Eight people have been killed and 150,000 affected as Tropical Cyclone Pam tore through the Pacific Island nation, one of the worst natural disasters to have ever struck the region.
Aid supplies to the country will also be helped with the resumption of commercial flights to Vanuatu.
Air Vanuatu said on Monday its fleet was now preparing to return to Port Vila, having been moved offshore to Sydney and Noumea prior to the arrival of Tropical Cyclone Pam.
Four flights were scheduled for Monday – two flights from Sydney to Port Vila, one flight from Port Vila to Sydney and another from Port Vila to Brisbane.
The airline said on its Facebook page its domestic fleet was also returning to Vanuatu and “will be operational soon”.
“We are overwhelmed with offers of support from the international community and thank our customers for their understanding as we work to get people home safely as soon as possible,” Air Vanuatu said in a statement.