Australia is leading a United Nations disaster assessment team being sent to help cyclone torn Pacific nations, Attorney-General Philip Ruddock announced today.
An officer from Emergency Management Australia (EMA), a Division of the Attorney-General's Department, has departed for the Pacific nation of Tokelau, joined by environmental damage and disaster recovery assessors from Samoa and Papua New Guinea to advise local administrators struggling to review devastation caused by recent Tropical Cyclones Olaf and Percy.
Mr Ruddock said the inclusion of EMA disaster assessment specialist Joanne Laurence as team leader was a demonstration of the tangible support offered by the Australian Government to small Pacific nations in times of crisis.
Ms Laurence is one of several United Nations trained assessors on EMA's staff, who are available at short notice to undertake assessments following the impact of disasters. She also travelled to Niue and Vanuatu early last year to assist local authorities with cyclone recovery operations. Other UN-trained EMA officers worked in Jakarta during the Asian tsunami crisis.
"The Governments of both the Cook Islands and Tokelau requested the United Nations to send help to hasten the restoration of infrastructure and community services severely damaged by the recent cyclones, and the UN has now asked Australia to help," said Mr Ruddock.
The UN has set up Disaster Assessment and Coordination Teams to go to each country, to work with local disaster response and recovery organisations. Another team going to the Cook Islands is made up of emergency management specialists from Samoa, Tonga and Fiji.
Tropical Cyclone Percy is the fourth severe cyclone to hit the central Pacific in February this year, causing widespread damage to many of the island communities. Australia contributed $200,000 through AusAID to assist with the recovery process in the Cook Islands and Tokelau, and along with officials from New Zealand and France, continues to monitor the impact of the extreme weather.
Charlie McKillop (AG's office) Parliament
House Phone: 02 6277 7300 Fax: 02 6273 4102
Alastair Wilson (EMA) 0408 606 462