The Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) response to the devastation brought by Cyclone Pam to Vanuatu in March 2015 saw more than 500 soldiers, sailors and aircrew deployed to provide assistance in the wake of the category five storm.
The ADF distributed 115 tonnes of vital humanitarian stores throughout Vanuatu. Through the efforts of ADF personnel, access to clean water was restored, schools, community buildings and medical facilities were repaired, and remote communities regained access to food and shelter.
The initial ADF response included the rapid delivery of Australian aid and emergency personnel using Air Force C-17A Globemaster strategic transport aircraft and C-130J Hercules aircraft. Air Force AP-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft also provided reconnaissance support over Vanuatu and Solomon Islands to give emergency officials a clearer picture of the damage caused by the cyclone.
In addition to the support by Australian agencies, including the ADF, military support was provided by French, British and New Zealand defence forces. The ADF effectively coordinated its response efforts with emergency officials and other nations throughout the affected area.
The amphibious operations ship HMAS Tobruk deployed with Army engineers, vehicles and additional aid. On arrival, Tobruk provided the maritime base for much of the ADF’s high-tempo post-disaster recovery operations in the outer islands. Tobruk offloaded tonnes of stores using two LARC-V amphibious cargo vehicles, two LCM-8 landing craft and an embarked Navy MRH-90 multi-role helicopter.
Army engineers made a significant contribution to the citizens of the worst-affected southern islands of Tanna and Erromango. Engineers provided immediate temporary shelter, access to clean water, and debris clearance and repairs to medical facilities.
The Air Force flew more than 260 sorties in support of the mission. Air Force C-17A and C-130J aircraft and Army Black Hawk helicopters conducted evacuations of people from Vanuatu and flew aid, stores and personnel for the ADF, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and other responding agencies, while Air Force KA350 King Air tactical aircraft provided inter-island transport.
A month later, following the devastating earthquake in Nepal on 25 April 2015, the ADF delivered more than 13 tonnes of Australian aid and evacuated 106 Australian and other foreign nationals to Thailand.
Using two Air Force C-17A Globemaster III strategic airlift aircraft, aid supplied by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade was flown into Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport. Civilian evacuees then boarded the aircraft and were flown out to Bangkok.
The Australian aid was delivered in cooperation with Nepalese aviation authorities, who managed the congested airport in Kathmandu following the earthquake.