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NZ Orion on Vanuatu mission

NZ Orion on Vanuatu mission

An RNZAF P3 Orion is on its way from Auckland to conduct a surveillance flight over Vanuatu’s outlying islands, Acting Foreign Affairs Minister Marian Hobbs said today.

"There has still been no contact with many of Vanuatu’s islands after Cyclone Ivy hit on Thursday and Friday," Marian Hobbs said. "Telecommunications are down and we don't know the level of damage outside the main island, Efate.

"This surveillance flight by the New Zealand air force will help the Vanuatu Government and other countries in the region get a clearer idea of what help might be needed."

The Orion will pass over Vanuatu’s southern islands before landing at the capital, Port Vila, at approximately 1.20pm NZ time (11.20am Vanuatu time). It will pick up Vanuatu’s Ministers of Foreign and Internal Affairs, as well as the Director of its National Disaster Management Office, before continuing its low-level flight over the northern islands.

The Orion will drop off its passengers in Vila before returning to New Zealand late tonight.

Further New Zealand assistance will be in response to Vanuatu requests and based on the outcome of the assessment flight.

"New Zealand stands ready to help Vanuatu get back on its feet," Marian Hobbs said. Early reports suggest one person has been killed by a landslide on the island of Malekula. Some people have been admitted to hospital in Vila with injuries caused by flying roofing iron.

The Port Vila area appears to have escaped major damage from the cyclone, although the main wharf is out of action because two fishing boats have turned over and sunk at their berths.

New Zealand High Commission staff are checking on New Zealand expatriates or tourists and there are no reports of problems at this stage.

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