On the morning of Wednesday 25 October, Tropical Cyclone Lola hit northern Vanuatu, causing significant damage on several islands, including Ambrym, Pentecost Island and Malakula, in Penama and Malampa Provinces.
The Republic of Vanuatu swiftly requested assistance from the partners of the FRANZ Arrangement (France – Australia – New Zealand).
France, a Pacific nation which stands together with its neighbours, launched the European Union Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM) to carry out an initial assessment of the damage and identify the areas requiring priority assistance.
The State and New Caledonian stakeholders immediately mobilized collectively to respond to the request.
In coordination with the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs’ Crisis and Support Centre (CDCS), the High Commission of the Republic in New Caledonia activated the Regional Emergency Assistance Committee (CAUR) to coordinate efforts from Nouméa.
From 26 October, the armed forces in New Caledonia (FANC) used a Falcon 200 Guardian to conduct reconnaissance missions. Two four-hour flights over what Vanuatu’s National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) defined as priority areas made the initial assessments.
Between 28 and 30 October, thanks to a FANC Puma helicopter deployed on the spot, a medical team visited the wounded in remote areas; the most serious cases were evacuated to Port-Vila hospital. The Puma also carried technicians and equipment to repair telecommunications networks damaged by the cyclone.
Finally, the French helicopter was used by the Vanuatu Prime Minister, accompanied by the French Ambassador, to visit the islands most affected by the cyclone: the visit made it possible to see the damage and talk to people, while soldiers transported repair equipment to villages difficult to access, where many roofs had been torn off.
France has thus shown, once again, that it has high value-added assistance capabilities in the area, which can be mobilized at very short notice: it therefore provides concrete proof of its determination to intervene in the region as a credible, reliable player in terms of Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR).