CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS:  We've been in contact with the Government of Tonga to offer support.  We have just received advice that a Defence Force plane,  a C-17 Globemaster  is departing with humanitarian assistance and will reach Tonga this evening.  The flight time to Tonga is about five hours and we are sending life-saving equipment, emergency shelter kitchen and hygiene kits.  So that's the initial response.

BRUCE HILL:  Is it likely the government of Tonga will ask for further assistance once a proper damage assessment has been done?

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS:  Of course, we will consider any assistance request.  We also have an Australian humanitarian specialist that is actually working in the National Emergency Management Office to support the response operation.  We have humanitarian relief supplies which have been prepositioned with Tonga Red Cross which will be distributed across the main islands.  Also, of course we've not just got Red Cross supplies on the main island but we have also got them on outlying islands.  Indeed, I went to visit one of those supplies on one of the outlying islands on one of my visits to Tonga.  So, further humanitarian assistance will be sent.

BRUCE HILL:  Often in the case cyclones in Pacific countries like Australia and New Zealand sometimes offer to help with surveillance flights to do damage assessment from the air.  Has a request been made for Australia to do that in this case?

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS:  I think at this stage, we will look at what the response is from the Tongan government and what their assessments are, of what their needs are.  Australia of course is chair of the FRANZ partners – France, Australia and New Zealand and we will of course coordinate with the Tongan government any international support from our three countries.  We're also looking at the cyclone, we're monitoring the cyclone is continuing to move to the west.  It may affect southern parts of Fiji and southern islands of New Caledonia.

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