The ADF has airlifted more than 40 tonnes of stores from Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, to a large populated island with no port access.
CAPTION: ADF personnel of Tongan heritage assisted with a contactless delivery of humanitarian stores to ‘Eua Island as part of Operation Tonga Assist 2022. Story by Lieutenant Brendan Trembath. Photo by Leading Seaman David Cox.
The port on ‘Eua Island has been closed since the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai underwater volcano and subsequent tsunami on January 15, leading to a shortage of essential supplies to sustain the population of about 5000 people.
Operation Tonga Assist lead planner on board HMAS Adelaide Major Anton Glushko said the ADF responded to a call from the Tongan Government to move the stores to the island.
“This is a good example of how partner nations are working alongside Tonga,” Major Glushko said.
“The ADF has significant medium-lift helicopter capability to move stores and people where they are needed.
“The stores are primarily dry goods including flour and sugar.”
Two Australian Army CH-47F Chinook helicopters operating from HMAS Adelaide delivered the consignment to Kaufana airport on ‘Eua in 20 transits.
The first helicopter carried an under-slung forklift, which Army air dispatcher Lance Corporal Emily Haynes said was rigged by a small team the night before.
“The forklift weighed 5100 kilograms and was rigged in a cargo net for external lift,” Lance Corporal Haynes said.
“Having the forklift on the island allowed us to safely move all the stores off the helicopter landing zone to where they were needed.”
Several ADF personnel of Tongan heritage were embarked in Adelaide to liaise with local authorities in Tongan.
“It was good to go ashore and help where we can,” Able Seaman Tu’lhalangingie Hokafonu said.
Leading Seaman Christine Fine said she was grateful to be on Tongan soil, even for a contactless visit.
“It really hits home, being Tongan and being able to assist our homeland,” said Leading Seaman Fine.
Army soldier Sergeant Alefosio Kakala said he felt very emotional to return to Tonga.
“For me, to be on the ground and actually help out means a lot.”
The ADF is deployed on Operation Tonga Assist 2022 as part of the Australian Government’s support to the Tongan Government following the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai underwater volcano.