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RNZAF Brings Communication and Aid to Stranded Community

Stock image of MADD package being dropped from a P-3K2
Stock image of MADD package being dropped from a P-3K2

24 February 2016

An RNZAF aircraft has restored communication and basic aid to a Fijian community, which had been stranded on an atoll following the weekend’s destructive Tropical Cyclone Winston.

In fading light and in a tight 30 minute timeframe, crew on the P-3K2 Orion, including two Fijian Navy and one New Zealand Army personnel, dropped an aid pack holding relief supplies and an emergency radio to the group.

The radio operated on the international distress frequency of 121.5 MHz that the Orion crew could use to establish communications between the aircraft and whoever retrieved the MADD (Minimum Aid Delivery Device) it was carried in.

The sortie was given priority as the community, which had been isolated for four days, had no external communications, No. 5 Squadron Commanding Officer, Wing Commander Daniel Hunt said.

The Fijian personnel on board the Orion had attached a note with instructions onto the MADD before dropping it from the plane to the people below, which hit “bang on” the target, WGCDR Hunt said.

“Turns out they had no power, no comms, no food and only had rain water to drink. The school and many buildings were smashed but the hospital was okay and there was only one injury.

“Fijian personnel were stoked and of course the crew were buzzing as the people on the ground seemed really relieved to finally be able to get a message out after three to four days of nothing.”

The cyclone, reportedly the strongest ever to hit the South Pacific, left a trail of destruction, particularly in Fiji’s northern outlying islands.

Nearly 30 people have lost their lives, whole villages destroyed, homes and crops damaged, power lines have been cut and more than 8100 people needed shelter in over 70 evacuation centres.

If needed another Orion will visit the area later in the week.

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