ADF personnel touchdown to assist Fiji
By AFHQ, 23 February 2016 14:51:59

Critical support is being provided to Fiji by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Australian Defence Force personnel following the devastation left by severe Tropical Cyclone Winston.

Commencing on Monday 22 February, a Royal Australian Air Force C-17A Globemaster flew fifteen personnel from the ADF reconnaissance and assessment team to Suva, Fiji to help determine support for relief to outlying areas as part of Joint Task Force (JTF) 635.

The Joint Task Force was established as part of the ADF contribution to the DFAT led Whole of Government response to a request from the Government of Fiji in the wake of the cyclone.

Joint Task Force Commander, Lieutenant Colonel (LTCOL) Scott Hill, said it was fortunate that the aircraft was able to land due to the trying post-cyclone conditions, before meeting with the Australian Head of Mission and Fijian officials.  

"Today JTF 635 advance elements flew from RAAF Amberley into Fiji. There was a bit of concern whether we would make it into Suva or Nadi, fortunately we beat the weather and made it into Suva," said LTCOL Hill.

"The advance elements were met by Head of Mission in preparation for the follow on force which will arrive in the next couple of days."

The JTF reconnaissance and assessment team will help to determine what level of support the ADF can provide the Fiji Government to assist those most in need. 

"In the next 24 to 48 hours we will see a troop of MRH90 helicopters arrive as well as a Role One medical facility and the establishment of a logistics node to help us go about our support".

The MRH90 helicopters are designed to operate in poor weather conditions and will assist the government in carrying out further damage assessments and providing much needed aid to outlying islands and areas not accessible by road.

Tropical Cyclone Winston tore through the islands of Fiji with record gusts of up to 325km per hour, causing widespread flooding and damage to infrastructure making it difficult to assess the situation.

In conjunction with the Government of Fiji, and together with New Zealand and France, Australia continues to assess the humanitarian impact to determine best support to Fijian authorities.