A Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion (Image © New Zealand Defence Force)

New Zealand Orion first to respond to Pam

UPDATED | A Royal New Zealand Air Force Lockheed P-3K2 Orion has been the first to respond to the devastating cyclone Pam that struck northeastern Oceania on Friday 13 March 2015, with wind speeds up to 273 feet/second (300 km/h).

The aircraft was sent into the air first to assess the damage done to the nation of Tuvalu, and proceeded to Vanuatu on Friday the 13th where – according to local reports – up to 90 percent of the buildings in the capital Port Vila (47,000 people) has been damaged by the natural disaster. Vanuatu’s rescue services have much lost contact with the 220,000 inhabitants living on the 64 other islands of the nations.

The RNZAF sent a C-130H(NZ) Hercules with eight tonnes of supplies and a first response New Zealand team to Vanuatu on Sunday. Two more Hercules flights are scheduled for Monday 16 March.

In the area as well is Royal New Zealand navy HMNZS Wellington (P-55), but at the time of writing it is not known to Airheadsfly.com if the off-shore patrol vessel has its air asset – a Kaman SH-2 Seasprite – on board. Any rescue efforts will be hindered by the remoteness of the nations struck by Pam. The distance between Tuvalu and Vanuatu alone is about 950 miles (1,500 km).

Royal Australia Air Force
Australia has responded by sending at least one Boeing C-17A Globemaster III strategic airlifter stuffed with relief goods and rescue workers towards Vanuatu, where it was expected to land on Saturday 14 or Sunday 15 March as far as our reports indicate. A Royal Australian Air Force C-130 has been departing RAAF Station Amberley as well heading for Vanuatu. Since a lot of the infastructure is damaged, military planes with crews used to operate in these challenging environments are the only ones able to land on Bauerfield International Airport close to the capital Port Vila.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: A Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion (Image © New Zealand Defence Force)