Mr VAN MANEN (Forde) (14:09): My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Will the minister please update the House on the government's disaster relief efforts in Vanuatu?
Ms JULIE BISHOP (Curtin—Minister for Foreign Affairs) (14:09): I thank the member for Forde for the question. I know how concerned he is for Pacific islanders who are living in his electorate and who have family and friends in the Pacific. Since Tropical Cyclone Pam hit the Pacific, particularly Vanuatu, last Friday and Saturday, the Australian government has responded rapidly. We are providing lifesaving supplies and equipment, humanitarian support, and experts on the ground. Eight RAAF transport planes have delivered necessary supplies, personnel and equipment. Three left on Sunday; two on Monday; three yesterday. Around 56 people from our search and rescue teams have been deployed, and around 27 in the Australian medical assistance teams. We are setting up a 40-bed ward hospital in the Port Vila hospital complex, also a pharmacy, and X-ray services. Around 30 consular humanitarian and other officials have also been deployed, and at any one time there are around 50 Australian Defence Force personnel on the ground.
Today our focus is on the southern islands to check on the whereabouts of Australians who may be living or visiting these more remote locations. Communications are difficult. It is difficult to land planes. The flooding and the impact of the storms is making that challenging for us. Our aerial reconnaissance to date has confirmed that there has been some significant damage, particularly to Tanna Island. We anticipate that about 80 per cent of the houses and buildings there have been damaged in some way and some have been completely flattened. We are establishing a presence in Tanna today with medical supplies. Our consular personnel and medical team will be there with relief supplies more generally. From Port Vila we have evacuated 227 Australians on four separate military flights. I am pleased to confirm that commercial flights are now operating out of Port Vila airport.
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