The RAAF Deploys to Assist Vanuatu


03/22/2015: A Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) C-17A Globemaster III aircraft has embarked medical personnel and equipment as part of the Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT).

Approximately 20 civilian personnel and 15 tons of equipment including a field hospital and water purification system will be delivered by the C-17 from Darwin to Vanuatu’s capital, Port Vila, following the destruction caused by Tropical Cyclone Pam. Under the title Operation PACIFIC ASSIST 2015 the ADF is contributing air, land and naval assets.


The RAAF is moving humanitarian aid, civilian and DFAT emergency personnel and military advisers.

Also, the Navy’s amphibious operations ship is moving aid stores and Army engineer troops with plant equipment to Vanuatu as part of the broader DFAT-led Australian mission.

Credit: Australian Ministry of Defence:March 20, 2015

The role of Australia in Vanuatu is explained by the Australian government as follows:

Australia is an important economic partner for Vanuatu, providing the country with the majority of its tourists, foreign direct investment and aid. Australia is the largest aid donor to Vanuatu;

Our aid comprises more than 60 per cent of total ODA to Vanuatu (excluding China).

And this story in The Guardian provided an initial look at the situation as of March 15, 2015:

As night falls in Vanuatu, here is what we know so far about the effects of cyclone Pam and the humanitarian response:

Information from Vanuatu beyond the capital Port Vila, and from other islands in the path of cyclone Pam, remains sketchy to non-existent.

Here is what we know so far:

Photo provided by Unicef Pacific of a road which was damaged by cyclone Pam on Vanuatu. Photograph: Unicef Pacific / Handout/EPA
Photo provided by Unicef Pacific of a road which was damaged by cyclone Pam on Vanuatu. Photograph: Unicef Pacific / Handout/EPA

Confirmed deaths in Vanuatu currently number eight, with a further 20 people injured. This does not include any casualty figures from outlying islands, and this number is expected to rise. Routes out of the capital Port Vila are blocked and bridges torn down.

Aid agencies reported that around 90% of houses in Port Vila have been destroyed, many people displaced, and schools ripped apart. Oxfam Australia’s executive director Helen Szoke said:

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that we are now dealing with worse than the worst case scenario in Vanuatu. This is likely to be one of the worst disasters ever seen in the Pacific.”

The effects of cyclone Pam have been felt beyond Vanuatu, as the storm whipped its way across the South Pacific. Enele Sopoaga, the prime minister of Tuvalu, said 45% of the population has been displaced and a state of emergency has been declared.

Damage has been reported in other islands, including Kiribati –where New Zealand Red Cross reports that it is carrying out assessments of the damage caused by huge sea swells – Fiji and theSolomon Islands, though details are still scarce.

Australia has pledged a $5m relief package, with foreign minister Julie Bishop saying up to 5,000 people would be assisted with food, water, sanitation and shelter. New Zealand announced an additional $NZ1.5m ($A1.44m; £750,000) of funding, on top of the $NZ1m signaled on Saturday. France is to deploy a navy frigate of relief supplies from New Caledonia.

Military aircraft from Australia and New Zealand have landed in Port Vila, Vanuatu, at the devastated airport to begin immediate relief efforts and to assess the damage. Aid agencies are preparing further flights to deliver food, along with medical personnel and search-and-rescue workers.