Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, today announced the conclusion of the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF’s) assistance to Tonga and Fiji as part of Operation South West Pacific Assist 2018.
On 12 February, following a request from the Tongan Government in the wake of Cyclone Gita, Defence commenced South West Pacific Assist 2018 as part of a whole of government disaster response effort.
Minster Payne said the mission helped relieve immediate suffering and allowed Tonga to prepare for an enduring recovery.
“ADF planners commenced preparations as soon as the destructive potential of this cyclone became evident,” Minister Payne said.
“Standing ready to respond as the cyclone built in power, Australia commenced aid flights when Tongan airfields opened after the storm had passed.”
A Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) C-17A Globemaster flew a total of six flights that delivered approximately 140,000 kilograms of humanitarian aid and 30 ADF and civilian personnel to Tonga.
In addition to the aid flights, a RAAF AP-3C Orion conducted, at the request of the Fiji Government, damage assessment flights over outlying Fijian islands on 14 and 16 February 2018.
A small Defence team deployed to Nuku’alofa to help coordinate response efforts returned to Australia on 21 February.
The Australian Government is providing up to $3.5 million in humanitarian assistance and in supporting the ongoing relief effort in Tonga.