AUSSIE AID STRANDED IN MID-AIR
AUSTRALIA has sought assurances it will not be blocked from providing aid to cyclone-ravaged Vanuatu again after a Chinese plane delayed a critical delivery for more than a day.
A Royal Australian Air Force plane delivering humanitarian aid after Tropical Cyclone Harold was unable to land in Vanuatu’s capital Port Vila on April 12 because a Chinese A-320 delivering COVID-19 medical supplies was already on the tarmac, which was too small to accommodate both aircraft. The RAAF plane was forced to fly back to Brisbane due to reaching its minimum safe fuel supply limit and ultimately delivered the cyclone aid on April 13.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Australia had raised its “concerns” with officials both in Vanuatu and “in appropriate places with the Chinese government”. Australian Defence Force officials earlier this week confirmed the reasons behind the “regrettable incident” were being discussed with “all parties” to ensure it was not repeated.
Ms Payne could not say if she believed China had prevented Australia from delivering aid on purpose. “I don't know whether it was deliberate or not,” she said.
“I wasn't there. But what is most important is that countries like Australia and New Zealand working together, and others in the region, are able to support our Pacific neighbours in the way that is so important now.”
Ms Payne said the unloading of donated medical supplies from the Chinese plane took a “long period of time” and the aircraft was “unexpectedly” still on the tarmac when the RAAF plane arrived with its aid from Australia.
Workers in Vanuatu help to unload boxes of Australian medical supplies and other aid after an RAAF plane was held up by a Chinese aircraft on the tarmac.