Australian Defence Force personnel with Operation FIJI ASSIST 2016 have conducted work parties with the Republic of Fiji Military Forces, to help clean up the village of Nasau on Koro Island after it was struck by tropical cyclone Winston on the 20th of February.
Personnel onboard HMAS Canberra were tasked to come ashore and assist with the removal of debris, as part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade- led Australian whole-of-government relief mission at the request of the Fijian authorities.
The cyclone’s destructive winds left a debris field ranging from palm fronds and broken glass, through to damaged white goods and major structural components from houses.
The workforce spent the day separating rubble, gathering organic rubbish, stacking timber and salvaging tin.
Materials that could be recycled and reused were salvaged for later use in housing and other structures.
Engineers from the Brisbane based 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment worked with their Fijian counterparts, repaired a school’s corrugated roof and cleared fallen trees.
Royal Australian Navy Chaplain Max Walker said the villagers were happy to see the Australians and Fijians working together to clear the debris.
“People were glad to have us there; the local people saw hope,” Chaplain Walker said.
Commander of Joint Task Force 635, Captain Brett Sonter said as with any natural disaster the first steps in cleaning up are always the hardest.
“When faced with significant destruction of property, cleaning up and finding order is one of the most difficult things a victim has to deal with,” Captain Sonter said.
“Sometimes all one needs to recover is to be given a helping hand.”