Fiji, Vanuatu continue receiving Cyclone Harold relief from Pacific neighbors
Top Stories | May 15, 2020:
More than a month after Tropical Cyclone Harold ravaged small island nations in the Pacific, two of the hardest-hit countries — Fiji and Vanuatu — continue to receive disaster relief from Australian and New Zealand defense forces.
The tally for supplies airlifted by the New Zealand Defence Force to Fiji and Vanuatu reached nearly 30 metric tons in early May 2020, while the Australian Defence Force (ADF) has roughly matched that amount in emergency response materials, according to the New Zealand Herald newspaper and ReliefWeb.com, respectively.
“We stand ready to provide further help to our Pacific family in whatever ways we can,” Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Marise Payne said in a statement. “I am proud that the ADF is able to help … through RAAF [Royal Australian Air Force] transportation of humanitarian stores. It’s part of our commitment to stand shoulder to shoulder during times of crisis.”
Australia has provided blankets, lanterns, shelter kits, hygiene kits and support logistics to affected communities. The Australian government has also sent health, education and policing support.
Thousands remain homeless with drinking water compromised and crops destroyed in the aftermath of Cyclone Harold, which formed April 1 and dissipated April 11, even as Pacific island nations fight the threat of COVID-19. The challenges of coronavirus prompted military responders to take extra precautions, including air load teams operating in work bubbles and sanitizing cargo before loading and after unloading, among other measures, according to the New Zealand Defence Force.
New Zealand has provided surveillance flights to survey damage and pinpoint areas needing relief, and worked with local responders to deliver prepositioned relief supplies. (Pictured: Royal New Zealand Air Force Hercules aircraft and crew load aid supplies from the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade for delivery to Fiji and Vanuatu following Tropical Cyclone Harold.)
“New Zealand is always ready to support its Pacific neighbors when disaster strikes, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s response to Cyclone Harold has been focused on ensuring timely and effective humanitarian support gets to those who need it most, while also preventing the further spread of COVID-19,” according to New Zealand’s Ministry for Pacific Peoples.
While Cyclone Harold’s intensity reached that of a Category 5 hurricane over Fiji and Vanuatu, its wind and rain also damaged the Solomon Islands and Tonga, which have also received humanitarian assistance and disaster relief from Australian and New Zealand forces.