1 May 2020
The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has flown almost 30 tonnes of aid supplies to Fiji and Vanuatu following Tropical Cyclone Harold with the last of its flights to the Pacific completed this week.
Thousands of people have been made homeless, drinking water has been affected, and many people are now relying on aid for food after the cyclone destroyed crops.
The return flights also meant nearly 60 New Zealanders who wanted to return home after COVID-19 restrictions cancelled commercial routes were able to be repatriated.
The NZDF has been working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to deliver the relief supplies to Fiji and Vanuatu.
Air Component Commander Air Commodore Tim Walshe said the last of six flights by Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130H Hercules aircraft had been completed this week.
The Hercules made four trips to Vanuatu and two to Fiji, carrying aid supplies including hundreds of bundles of tarpaulins and tools to build temporary shelters, water containers, petrol and diesel generators, as well as hundreds of kilograms of personal hygiene products and sanitary items for babies.
In total, 15,325kg of aid was delivered to Port Vila in Vanuatu and 43 New Zealanders were repatriated.
On the first flight to Port Vila, a carefully packed Robinson R66 civilian helicopter was transported. It was to be used by the authorities in Vanuatu to assist with the relief efforts.
On the return journey were six VSA volunteers who had been working on the island. VSA had started bringing its volunteers home a week before the Level 4 lockdown started but had been unable to get them back when Air Vanuatu cancelled its flights.
A total of 13,082kg of aid was taken to Fiji and 15 people were brought back to New Zealand over two flights.
Air Commodore Walshe said the Pacific countries had been hit by the natural disaster as well as the worldwide threat from COVID-19, and the Defence Force was pleased to help when needed.
Extra precautions were taken to prevent any potential spread of COVID-19, which included air load teams operating in work bubbles, sanitising the cargo before it was loaded and again after unloading, as well as personal hygiene and other measures carried out by personnel. Medical teams were also on hand to assist where required, he said.