Solomon Islands Prime Minister greets RAAF C-17 Humanitarian Assistance flight
10 April 2014
The Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, Mr Gordon Darcy Lilo has thanked Australian personnel who arrived in Honiara on 09 April to support relief efforts in the flood ravaged Pacific Island nation.
“We are very grateful for the support we have received in this difficult time and thank all the Australian’s who have come over to help us in our recovery,” Prime Minister Lilo said on Wednesday evening.
The Royal Australian Air Force C-17 landed at Honiara’s international airport with Australian Defence Force, Australian Federal Police and Queensland Fire Service Rescue personnel on board. The new arrivals joined the DFAT led recovery efforts to assist the tens of thousands of effected residents of Guadalcanal Island following the devastating flash floods that struck on 03 and 04 April.
The C-17 brought in several tonnes of vital Humanitarian Assistance stores for distribution by DFAT. The stores included hygiene kits, blankets, shelters and water purifiers.
A Defence Assessment Team is currently in Honiara undertaking specialist assessment of damaged infrastructure and providing planning support to the DFAT staff in Honiara coordinating relief efforts.
“Our immediate focus is on providing support to enable key bridges in and around Honiara to be reopened to the heavy vehicle traffic required for relief and reconstruction works to commence,” explained Army Lieutenant Colonel Mark Stone, who heads up the team of 16 Defence personnel.
“We are focused on the main supply routes to enable movement between areas of the city that were cut off by the floods late last week.
“Other specialist staff on this team are assisting with health assessments of the evacuation centres and undertaking logistical planning for the distribution of aid stores when they arrive in country.”
At the Bukanavera School Evacuation Centre in Honiara, DFAT and Defence staff viewed the difficult conditions being endured by the almost 1500 displaced persons resident there.
“We are very happy to receive the aid, but we will need more to support the number of people we have,’ Evacuation Centre Chairman Sam Lonsdale told the visiting Australian delegation.
“I would say that seventy percent of the people here have no homes to return to, and the other thirty percent are too scared to return home.”
The Australian Defence Advisor in Honiara, Army Lieutenant Colonel Richard Watson, explained that the island nation’s residents were not prepared for the natural disaster that unfolded over a two day period.
“The fear is a result of the suddenness of the floods, and the speed of the flood waters as they came down the major rivers,” he said.
“From receiving word of the potential of severe flooding on 03 April, to the waters actually hitting central Honiara was probably no more than 20 minutes, it took everyone by complete surprise.”
The Defence Assessment Team flew out of RAAF Base Amberley in southern Queensland with 12 hours notice following a request to Australia for support by the Solomon Islands Government on 05 April. The ADF support to DFAT relief efforts also includes strategic airlift from Australia to Honiara for personnel and stores.