The people of Torokina Community who were affected by the recent Mt Bagana Volcano Eruption were given humanitarian aid from a French Navy Vessel le Vendemiaire on September 17 during the Papua New Guinea Independence weekend, Sunday.
In a testament to international solidarity, the French Navy vessel, le Vendemiaire, arrived in Torokina (Bougainville) bringing essential relief supplies to the affected communities and displaced people living in the area.
First Secretary of the French Embassy in PNG, Elise Varrey, was on the ground to coordinate with Bougainville controller Esther Usurp-Harou and the disaster team based in Buka to ensure the smooth handover of the relief supplies to the people in need. This collaborative effort underscores the strong bonds between both nations in times of crisis.
On the first day of the operation, the Vendemiaire reached its designated anchorage point off the coast of Piva and Torokina.
Despite challenging weather conditions that prevented the use of small fishing boats (dinghies) for aid transport, the operation proceeded with French helicopter making approximately twenty trips to deliver the initial aid supplies.
With much appreciation the local population actively participated in unloading and centralizing the aid, even in heavy rain and muddy conditions.
The following day, Monday 18th September, the relief supplies were efficiently unloaded from le Vendemiaiere onto an Agmark Shipping barge, and from there, they were transported to the Torokina beach.
These vital supplies, which include food and other essentials, were then further conveyed by vehicles to the Piva government station where a care centre was set up to aid those affected by the volcano eruption.
It was on the same day, Monday, the First Secretary of the French Embassy in PNG, accompanied by the ship’s captain, Sebastian Drouelle, and the chief Operation coordinator of the vessel, Julien Ruffin, met with President of the Autonomous region of Bougainville Ishmael Toroama in his residence in Buka, for a brief but impactful meeting.
The President expressed heartfelt gratitude for the French operation, emphasizing its historical significance – the island having been named after a French admiral explorer – the presence of this navy ship in Bougainville to deliver humanitarian help a few centuries later had a very special meaning.
The President welcomed France’s assistance and expressed openness to collaborate on future initiatives.
Discussions also touched upon French initiatives in PNG, including the country package aimed at preserving forests and biodiversity, which drew significant interest from the President.
France reaffirmed its readiness to provide support should additional needs arise and this operation underlines France’s unwavering commitment to the Pacific islands and its dedication to extending a helping hand when crises arise.
Together with the international community, France is determined in assisting Bougainville on its path to recovery.