SUPPORT: Members of the Papua New Guinea police force take an opportunity for a group photo in front of the C-130J Hercules.
SUPPORT: Members of the Papua New Guinea police force take an opportunity for a group photo in front of the C-130J Hercules. CPL David Gibbs

Hercules in PNG mercy mission

THE Royal Australian Air Force has deployed a C-130J Hercules to Papua New Guinea to provide assistance, following the earthquake that occurred in the early morning last week.

The 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck the Highlands region, particularly Hela and Southern Highlands provinces, about 600km northwest of Port Moresby.

The C-130J Hercules left on March 1, 2018, and arrived in Port Moresby, where it is distributing humanitarian aid bound for earthquake-affected areas.

The medium-sized tactical airlifter has also been requested to conduct aerial surveillance of affected areas in support of the Papua New Guinea Government.

Humanitarian Duty Officer at the Australian High Commission in Papua New Guinea Mr Darian Clark said the earthquake affected many people living within the Papua New Guinea highlands.

"This was the biggest earthquake in a hundred years and it spread 150km across the fault line," Mr Clark said.

"A number of urban settlements, as well as villages, have been affected. Many in the form of landslides and landslips, which means that roads have been cut off, water contaminated, power knocked out and other widespread effects for the local people.

"This is the first round of humanitarian relief supplies to be provided to the affected area and we understand there is a desperate need for the items we're taking up. So I think the priority of what we are doing cannot be understated.

"We have a mixture of medical supplies and equipment; tarps, tents, blankets and water containers, the essentials of life, following a formal request we received from the Papua New Guinea Government on Wednesday.

"It really confirms the solidarity that Australia has with Papua New Guinea, in times of crisis. It has all been made possible, of course, by the C-130J here in country. It means that we have been able to respond even quicker than we hoped for."

Further assessments of the impact, including in remote areas, will be required before the level of damage caused by the earthquake and ongoing aftershocks can be ascertained.

C-130J Hercules Captain, Squadron Leader Justin Della Bosca, said the aircrew from Number 37 Squadron train for these specific kind of emergencies.

"The Hercules has extremely good short field performance and extremely good hot temperature and high altitude performance as well," he said. This means we can lift a large amount of cargo out of very short airstrips.

"The Papua New Guinea environment is probably one of the most challenging aviation environments in the world, so all of the pilots at Number 37 Squadron have a lot of respect for the weather and the terrain in Papua New Guinea."