Australian Navy Vessel Delivers Supplies, Soldiers To Assist Fiji

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Giant HMAS Canberra already drops aid to Koro Island

By Nasik Swami

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, March 2, 2016) – Australia has underlined its ability to contribute to humanitarian assistance in the Pacific after the deployment of its flagship navy vessel HMAS Canberra to disaster struck Fiji.

The 13-storey mega ship of the Australian Defence Force arrived in the country late on Monday night, carrying as much as 7.7 tonnes of relief supplies, 850 military personnel, 50 vehicles, three helicopters and three landing craft onboard.

The ship, which is in the country at the Fijian Government's request, will assist in rehabilitation efforts around the country's severely-devastated islands.

Commander of the Australian Amphibious Task Group Captain Brett Sonter said the ship provided a platform for greater assessment, debris clearing, engineering assessment, water purification and delivery of first aid around the country.

"To give you a fair idea of what this platform can do, this platform can provide with greater assessment, engineering assessment, debris clearing, water purification and the delivery of first aid around the Fijian islands," Cpt Sonter said.

"This is the first time that this actual platform (ship) in this capability has been sailed in an operation. That speaks of the friendship that our two countries have.

"We have delivered people already to the island of Koro where we will aid the Republic of Fiji Military Forces in their assessment and reconstruction there."

He said Australian military contingent was prepared to be in the country and help for up to a month, depending on the needs of the National Disaster Management Office.

Cpt Sonter said the vessel carried amphibian craft, which would enable teams on the HMAS Canberra to land heavy equipment anywhere their help was required, including islands without jetties, roads or those that have been blocked off.

The vessel will carry on board two Fiji Navy representatives to serve as liaison officers and a group of local soldiers on board while in Fiji waters.

The ship will be in the country for 30 days or as long as it is needed and reached Koro Island this morning to start rehabilitation works. The ship is 230 metres long and could not dock at the Suva Wharf because it has a hull of 10 metres and areas in the Suva Harbour do not meet its requirements.

The Australian Government's total humanitarian assistance package for Severe TC Winston stands at $F23m [US$10.8 million].

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