Solomon Islands + 1 more

Vanuatu: French assist with cyclone flights

While much attention has focussed on Tikopia in Solomon Islands, the northern islands of Vanuatu have also been affected by the storms. The government of Vanuatu requested assistance from France to investigate the impact of the cyclone on Vanua Lava and Mota Lava, in the "Banks" group of islands. A French Gardien plane, based in New Caledonia, flew over Tikopia and Anuta last Friday looking for damage, while a French military Puma helicopter has crossed Vanuatu's Banks Islands.

Presenter/Interviewer: Nic Maclellan

Speakers: Benoit Denise, humanitarian attache at the Embassy of France in Port Vila

DENISE: "The government of Vanuatu requested FRANZ partners, which are France, Australia and New Zealand, to cooperate in setting up an assessment mission to study what was the damage caused by Cyclone Zoe."

"So French military troops in New Caledonia - being the closest to Vanuatu - we requested all troops to send helicopter.

"And we've been able to fly for assessment mission with Mr Job Esau, who is the head of NDMO the National Disaster Management Organisation here in Vanuatu. So we've been flying all over the northern part of Vanuatu, except the Torres islands."

MACLELLAN: What sort of damage has the cyclone caused to the Banks and other groups in the northern part of Vanuatu ?

DENISE: "One thing was about Zoe itself... it seems that it hit hard the village of Sola in Vanua Lava, and we've been able to see that some local bungalows have been wiped out on a beach and mostly by waves which came over the beach getting inland maybe 30 to 40 metres, and destroyed what was built in the area.

"There was no casualties, the waves having hit the island during day time. So the inhabitants were able to move to a safe place. Mostly it was material damages and we think the village will be able to recover after being able to clean up the beach and what has been destroyed. I know that NDMO planned to send some equipment to help the villagers; I want to stress the point that it's a Vanuatu response; it's not a French embassy response.

"The second thing we want also to fly on Mere Lava, Mere Lava being a small volcanic island, which has been hit by an earthquake in late November. We were getting reports through NDMO that some major landslide had taken place.

"So we flew over the area and we discovered that there had been some landslide but that the villagers did not seem to have been affected and that plantation has not been so destroyed that the first report could let us think.

MACLELLAN: So it seems overall that there are no civilian casualties and that the damage is fairly minimal in comparison to other areas?

DENISE: "I could say that from what we've stated, what we've found was better. It seemed that the first report we're getting were more pessimistic than the actual situation."

MACLELLAN: Is this sort of disaster response coordinated with Australia and New Zealand?

DENISE: "Usually in Vanuatu the way we work is through this partnership, France, Australia and New Zealand, which work together as a party closely in relation with Vanuatu. After that it depends which country is more available, for instance in this particular case we were closest from New Caledonia so it was easier to organise a flight from New Caledonia."


Australian Broadcasting Corporation