A Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 Hercules has gone to Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, carrying aid supplies following a volcanic eruption which has affected more than 8000 people. The deployment follows a request from Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape for international partners to support the Autonomous Government of Bougainville and the Government of Papua New Guinea as they assess the damage and respond to emergency needs. Ash plumes and other volcanic effects have affected surrounding communities. While no deaths or injuries have been reported, ash fall has posed challenges for food and water security. The PNG National Disaster Centre (NDC) advised that the total number of persons impacted is over 8,000, with approximately 3,500 people displaced to two evacuation camps. The number of displaced people is expected to increase.
Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade Chris Seed said:“Aotearoa New Zealand’s thoughts are with the people of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, who have been significantly impacted by ongoing volcanic activity on Mt Bagana since July.”
Commander Joint Forces New Zealand Rear Admiral Jim Gilmour said:“The NZDF remained committed to supporting Pacific neighbours when called on to help. Our C-130 has this morning taken these essential supplies in to Buka which will help meet some of the basic needs of those affected by the volcanic activity. As always we stand ready to provide further assistance if called upon to do so.”
The C-130 Hercules aircraft provides strategic airlift and tactical airlift (intra-theatre) as well as participating in international training exercises. The C-130 has just arrived in Buka, Papua New Guinea with approximately 7000kg of supplies on board, after leaving RNZAF Base Auckland at Whenuapai yesterday morning. The supplies included lighting, generators, hygiene and family kits, water containers, water purification tablets, temporary shelters and tarpaulins. The agility of the C-130 Hercules aircraft means it can be seen operating in the cold of Antarctica one week and the heat of the tropics the next. On 5 June 2020 the Government announced that a fleet of five C-130J-30 would replace the current fleet of C-130H(NZ) aircraft, with deliveries scheduled to commence in 2024.