Army engineers give remote island a lift

Army engineers from 6th Engineer Support Regiment (6ESR) will spend several days on Vanuatu’s remote island of Futuna to help restore key buildings severely damaged by Tropical Cyclones Judy and Kevin.

CAPTION: An Australian Army CH-47 Chinook takes off from HMAS Canberra near the coast of Futuna Island to conduct a vertical replenishment. Story by Lieutenant Geoff Long. Photo by Leading Seaman Matthew Lyall.

A team of 32 personnel, as well as tools and construction materials, were airlifted on to Vanuatu’s most easterly island by Army CH-47 Chinooks embarked in HMAS Canberra.

6ESR operations officer Major Matthew Hill said the engineers would live and work alongside the local community while they helped refurbish the local medical centre, police station and church.

“We’ve got a range of trades and skills in the contingent, including carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and specialists in solar power and environmental health,” Maj Hill said.

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CAPTION: An Australian Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter delivers stores to Futuna Island during Operation Vanuatu Assist 2023. Photo by Leading Seaman Daniel Goodman.

“The helicopters have also airlifted in all of the necessary construction material, including timber and roofing.”

Futuna is a small island in the southern Tafea province of Vanuatu with a population of about 600.

Roger Tebu, a registered nurse living and working on the island, said the community welcomed the help of ADF personnel.

“Many people lost their houses during the cyclones, and the medical centre where I work is not in good condition, with medicines lost during the storm,” Mr Tebu said.

“It’s good that Australia has come to help because I’ve been struggling at the medical centre and it’s a blessing to have you here.”

HMAS Canberra has been conducting a range of tasks since arriving in Port Vila on March 9, prioritised by the country’s National Disaster Management Office.

Canberra also has been transporting and distributing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief supplies, including food and medical stores, to other islands in southern Vanuatu.

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CAPTION: Australian Army personnel unload supplies on Futuna Island during Operation Vanuatu Assist. Photo by Leading Seaman Matthew Lyall.


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