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07 August 2009
Preparation of equipment for Operation Ashika Assist

The departure later this evening of a Royal Australian Navy clearance diving team on a Royal Australian Air Force C130 Hercules from RAAF Base Richmond will mark the commencement of Operation Ashika Assist, the Australian Defence Forces response to the Government of Tonga’s request for assistance to recover human remains from the ferry ‘Princess Ashika’.

The clearance dive team consists of 16 personnel and is capable of operating to depths of 50 metres. The specialist navy divers will deploy with underwater cutting and lifting tools as well as an imagery and sonar capability. This team also includes medical specialists with a deployable decompression chamber in the event of an emergency.

The clearance dive team is led by LEUT Charles Fennell and based out of HMAS Waterhen in Sydney.

The RAAF C130 Hercules is due to depart RAAF Richmond this evening. The deployed ADF elements will commence assisting the Tongan authorities from Saturday, 8 August and diving operations will commence as soon as practicable.

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