The Category 5 Tropical Cyclone, which has now been downgraded to a tropical low, has made its way through the Fijian islands and is tracking away through open seas in the South West Pacific.
A team from Headquarters Joint Forces, responsible for coordinating the NZDF response, deployed an NZDF C-130 Hercules from Base Auckland to conduct an initial survey flight on Saturday 19 December.
According to the NZ defence Force, for operational reasons, the surveillance flights were conducted by an NZDF C-130 Hercules rather than the P3 Orion.
The collected imagery was analysed by the 230 Squadron Intelligence Team to assist the Fijian National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) with their assessment of the damage caused.
Additionally, a number of other NZDF units and capabilities have been making preparations to provide assistance should it be requested by the Fijian Government.
A second NZDF C-130 Hercules flight took place on Sunday to collect imagery of damage in more remote areas of the Fijian islands.
NZDF Air Component Commander Air Commodore Shaun Sexton said that since Tuesday, 70 NZDF personnel have been planning NZDF support options and delivering the survey flights over the weekend.
“During what for many NZDF personnel was the first weekend of their Christmas holidays, many of our team have come off leave to support or prepare to support the wider New Zealand response to Fiji,” he said.
“Against a background of supporting the New Zealand public though OP PROTECT, it shows the NZDF is ready and able to support the needs of New Zealand and our Pacific whānau.”
The NZDF remains ready to provide further support to the Government of Fiji’s response, including the provision of aid and further damage surveys, when and if required.
The category 5 cyclone claimed four lives and left a massive trail of devastation on Fiji’s second largest island of Vanua Levu and some of the outer islands.