France sends firefighting and medical teams to help Vanuatu

Assistance to Vanuatu/mission to deliver humanitarian aid to Tanna – Communiqué issued by the Office of the High Commissioner of the Republic in Vanuatu (excerpts)

Nouméa, 18 March 2015

At the Vanuatu government’s request, a French humanitarian aid mission is being deployed on the island of Tanna, and very likely Erromango.

These are the two islands nearest to New Caledonia and have long maintained strong relations with the New Caledonian people.

Mandated by the Office of the High Commissioner of the Republic in New Caledonia, a team from the Directorate for Civil Protection and Risk Management (DSCGR) will be deployed in Tanna on Thursday 19 March 2015, on board a CASA from the New Caledonian armed forces.

This team will comprise 25 people from the DSCGR, mobilized with their equipment and the gear necessary for carrying out their mission on the ground for 10 days, completely autonomously. It will ensure coordination with the sécurité civile (1) mission by also drawing on the resources mobilized by the French Polynesia sécurité civile team, which arrived in New Caledonia yesterday.

Two task forces of firefighters, a doctor and two nursing staff members from the DSCGR will, among other things, provide health and medical support and carry out health support missions and missions where cutting equipment is required. (…)./.

(1) emergency services including rescue, firefighting and emergency medical services.

Vanuatu/Cyclone Pam – Communiqué issued by the Presidency of the Republic

Paris, 17 March 2015

The French President spoke to Baldwin Lonsdale, President of Vanuatu, this morning. He expressed to him France’s wholehearted solidarity in view of the disastrous consequences of Cyclone Pam and extended to him his condolences for the bereaved. He commended the courage with which Vanuatu’s people and government are coping with the disaster.

The Head of State assured President Lonsdale of France’s full support in this ordeal. He said that the assistance provided as of Sunday will be increased in the coming days in order to respond to the urgency of the situation, assess needs and enable the country’s reconstruction.

Cyclone Pam is a new warning for the international community to shoulder all its responsibilities in the fight against climate change, which first and foremost affects the most vulnerable. The French President reiterated his determination for this December’s Paris Conference to make an ambitious agreement possible./.

Vanuatu/French mobilisation – Statement by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development

Paris, 16 March 2015

The extremely violent Cyclone Pam has devastated Vanuatu in the South Pacific. The number of victims is still not known, but there is already considerable material damage. Several thousand people are homeless. In these tragic circumstances, my thoughts go to the country’s victims, people and authorities.

France heeded the appeal issued by the President of Vanuatu. On Sunday, we sent experts to assess people’s needs. The French armed forces, in conjunction with the Red Cross and our Australian and New Zealand partners, are taking steps to deliver emergency humanitarian aid to the devastated islands by sea and air. A maritime patrol aircraft has been assigned air reconnaissance missions, which are essential due to the archipelago’s layout. In Paris, the Ministry’s crisis and support centre is mobilized. Despite difficult communications, our embassy over there is in contact with our compatriots and six of them have been evacuated to Nouméa. I am personally following all these operations.

This disaster occurred as the United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction was taking place in Sendai. We know that 70% of so-called natural disasters are linked to climate disruption. Cyclone Pam is a new warning for the international community to shoulder its responsibilities.

Taking action for the climate means first protecting the most vulnerable people. More than ever, we are up against an emergency. Everything must be done to ensure that the Paris Climate Conference makes an ambitious agreement possible./.

Vanuatu – Communiqués issued by the Office of the High Commissioner of the Republic in New Caledonia

Nouméa, March 2015

15 March

In the wake of Cyclone Pam’s tragic impact on Vanuatu, the French President has expressed “his full support for Vanuatu’s authorities” and has said that “the French authorities will respond to Vanuatu’s requests for assistance”.

The High Commissioner of the Republic in New Caledonia is working to activate the mission to assist the victims, with the support of New Caledonia’s armed forces (FANC) and in direct liaison with those responsible for civil protection in New Caledonia, particularly the Directorate for Civil Protection and Risk Management (DSCGR) and the local branch of the Red Cross.

On Sunday 15 March 2015, in the framework of the FRANZ agreement (1), a new meeting was held at the Office of the High Commissioner of the Republic, in the presence of the consular authorities of New Zealand, Australia and Vanuatu, to coordinate the preparation of missions to deliver international aid.

Five aircraft are thus en route or have just arrived on site:

- one C-130 Hercules of the Royal New Zealand Air Force landed in Port Vila at the beginning of the afternoon;

- one C-130 and two C-17s of the Royal Australian Air Force: two aircraft have landed and one is en route;

- one CASA plane of the FANC.

The last of these took off from Paul Klein air base (New Caledonia) at 3.00 p.m. today. On board were a multidisciplinary assessment team and equipment:

- a P4 all-terrain vehicle, a water treatment unit and a generator;

- the Defence Attaché of the French Embassy in Vanuatu; a transmitter; an engineering officer; the deputy director of the DSCGR; a Red Cross expert; and an electromechanical engineer.

The priority of this initial mission is to establish a channel of communication from Vanuatu, in view of the malfunctioning networks, to carry out reconnaissance of the areas affected and to define priorities in terms of the victims’ needs, in liaison with the local authorities.

Meanwhile, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) is contributing to the assessment effort, having offered to fund the production of satellite images that will be made available to the international community.

France is considering the very rapid dispatch of additional air (transport and air reconnaissance) and maritime units (frigate), in close partnership with Australia and New Zealand.

Initial feedback from the assessment mission will give us an idea of the scale of the damage and, based on the analysis carried out on the ground, enable us to determine what material and human resources to deploy, including at logistical level.

16 March

In the framework of the mission to assist the victims after Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu, a new coordination meeting was held this morning at the Office of the High Commissioner of the Republic, in the presence of the consular authorities of New Zealand and Australia, New Caledonia’s armed forces (FANC), the Directorate for Civil Protection and Risk Management (DSCGR) and the President of the French Red Cross (New Caledonia delegation).

In the framework of the FRANZ agreement, flights are being conducted by Australia, New Zealand and France to carry out reconnaissance of the areas affected and define priorities in terms of the victims’ needs, in liaison with the local authorities.

Two reconnaissance flights were conducted this morning by Royal Australian Air Force P3 maritime patrol planes.

This morning, a FANC Guardian surveillance plane also conducted a reconnaissance flight. On board, two people from the government organization the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) embarked in Port Vila and were able to contribute their knowledge of the territory.

One CASA plane of the FANC is also due to take off from Paul Klein air base (New Caledonia) at 2.00 p.m. today.

On board will be:

- technicians from Électricité et Eau de Calédonie (EEC), which has a subsidiary in Vanuatu, and 1.5 tonnes of freight;

- a specialist from the French Red Cross (housing and sheet metal)

- a unit supplied by the Office des Postes et Télécommunications (OPT), essential for re-establishing the air link between airports, and thus commercial flights;

- the Chief of Staff of the Defence and Security Area of the High Commissioner’s Office in New Caledonia, Lieutenant-Colonel Clément Préault (fire officer), will also be deployed to the area to facilitate the coordination of efforts and act as a link with the UN.

17 March

Coordination of support efforts in Vanuatu.

On Monday 16 March 2015, Vincent Bouvier, High Commissioner of the Republic in New Caledonia, received a delegation led by Gaël Yanno and made up of members of the Foreign Relations Committee and representatives of each of the political groups.

Following this initiative and with the goal of coordinating aid from New Caledonia to Vanuatu, a meeting will be held on Thursday 19 March at 3.00 p.m. at the Office of the High Commissioner of the Republic in New Caledonia, to which the Consul General of Vanuatu, the New Caledonian government, Congress, the three provincial assemblies and the New Caledonian mayors’ associations have been invited.

Furthermore, since Monday 16 March, the High Commissioner of the Republic in New Caledonia has entrusted the coordination of voluntary-sector action in support of the people of Vanuatu to the Directorate for Civil Protection and Risk Management (DSCGR).

Delivery of international aid

In support of the first civil and military aircraft deployed in Vanuatu to deliver international aid, a CASA plane of the French Polynesian armed forces is en route and due to arrive at Nouméa-La Tontouta Airport in the evening. The CASA will thus provide additional support from New Caledonia and double the FANC’s transport capabilities.

Public Information Unit

The Public Information Unit (CIP) activated by the High Commissioner, in close collaboration with the Directorate for Civil Protection and Risk Management (DSCGR) is being maintained. It remains contactable on the following number: 05 05 05 – from 8.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. (Nouméa time).

An emergency consular service, made available by the French Embassy in Vanuatu for people not resident in New Caledonia, is also being maintained. (…)

(1) The FRANZ agreement was signed on 22 December 1992 and commits its signatories (France, Australia and New Zealand) to exchanging information to ensure the best use of resources for their rescue operations following cyclones and other natural disasters in the region.

Published on 30/03/2015

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