25 March 2015
Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) KA350 King Air aircraft have been supporting Operation Pacific Assist 2015 since Wednesday 18 March 2015, providing vital surveillance capability to authorities in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Pam.
Flying Officer Luke Duffy, a King Air co-pilot has seen a lot of the devastation left by Tropical Cyclone Pam across all of Vanuatu.
"Unfortunately, the islands of Tongoa and Malorua island were fairly destroyed," Flying Officer Duffy said.
"Most of the small villages seemed to have suffered a lot of damage."
"Houses and vegetation had been flattened and stripped."
"The northern region looks fairly good, the communities look like they have held together fairly well, and we have seen a lot of local activity which is a good thing."
The RAAF KA350 King Air has supported aerial surveillance flights, allowing Department of Foreign Affairs Officials (DFAT) and local officials to assess the damage in the local islands to the north and south of Port Vila.
"Our main role has been to provide a basic air logistic support capability for the Australian High Commission and Vanuatu Government within the various Islands," Flying Officer Duffy said.
The RAAF has two KA350 King Airs supporting the operation and they have flown a number sorties, supporting the assessment of the damage to infrastructure, including roads, houses, churches and schools.
"It's a great opportunity to help out and provide much needed assistance to the community," Flying Officer Duffy said.
DFAT representative Mr Josh Young is a member of the Consular Emergency Response team and has been on the ground working with the Australian Defence Force in coordinating and providing support to the Government of Vanuatu and seeking to confirm the whereabouts of missing Australians.
"The RAAF King Air recently supported us in evacuating an Australian and a New Zealand citizen from Pentacos to Santo," Mr Young said.
"DFAT arranged a chartered helicopter to bring them from the remote community of Pentacos and then we met them in Santos."
"We were then collected by a RAAF King Air to move to Port Vila."
"The two ladies seemed stunned that the Australian Government was looking for them but it was a huge outcome for their families who were concerned about them as they have had no communication for days following the cyclone."The Australian Defence Force (ADF) is continuing to support Australia’s Whole of Government response to the people of Vanuatu following the devastating Tropical Cyclone Pam.