The Australian Defence Force has helped the Northern Territory (NT) Government evacuate hundreds of people as a state of emergency was declared in the NT ahead of approaching Tropical Cyclone Trevor.
A Joint Task Force formed by Darwin’s 1st Brigade, coordinated the Defence effort utilising three Royal Australian Air Force C-130J Hercules aircraft to airlift about 780 evacuees to safety.
The aircrew utilised an alternative loading procedure, known as engine running ‘onload’ or ‘combat load’ to transport passengers quickly from remote East Arnhem Land communities to Darwin.
Flight Lieutenant Nicholas Bourke, a C-130J Hercules Captain said the onload/combat load method helped expedite the evacuation of residents away from Trevor’s destructive path.
“What we are doing to maximise the amount of people is an alternate loading procedure for our passengers,” Flight Lieutenant Bourke said.
“Instead of our normal seats, we are now sitting them on the floor of the aircraft with a strap that they can hold onto,
“It allows us to fit up to three times the amount of people on the aircraft.”
The Hercules aircraft are able to carry between 100 - 200 people on each ferry, as well as helping other government agencies such as the Northern Territory Police reach remote communities quickly.
“It’s certainly not just the military involved, it’s a whole-of-everyone effort so we need to work with local partners who know the people and areas,” Flight Lieutenant Bourke said.
“It really doesn’t come together unless everyone is working towards the same goal.”
Northern Territory Police Officer, Constable Luke Conroy, was one such member on board a flight from Darwin to McArthur River Mine airfield near Borroloola.
Constable Conroy, an Indigenous police officer who has worked extensively in remote communities such as Borroloola, assisted with security and the documentation of passengers.
The experienced police officer said it was very rewarding to know he was potentially helping save lives in the face of the predicted Category Four Cyclone.
“To be able to assist other indigenous people in times of need is extremely rewarding.”
As hundreds of people arrived at Darwin airport, Australian Army personnel quickly stepped-up to assist the NT Government in setting up evacuation centres by setting-up tents, stretchers and bedding for those affected.
View the Minister for Defence media release