The impact of an earthquake or tsunami cannot be underestimated. Homes and infrastructure are destroyed, thousands of people are displaced, missing or killed and access to the communities that need it most is non-existent. In these situations, a MAF disaster response can make all the difference. Not only can MAF deliver aid or perform medevac rescues, but we can also set up temporary communications systems and perform survey flights to assess the need from the air when roads are destroyed.

During the earthquake response in Papua New Guinea MAF collaborated with various organisations to deliver relief supplies to remote areas that needed help.
Photo: Andrea Rominger

On 26 February 2018, an earthquake measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale struck Papua New Guinea, triggering landslides, destroying homes, contaminating water sources and affecting crops and food supplies. With MAF already in country, our national team, our MAF Technologies team and our Disaster Response team got to work immediately. We flew survey flights to assess the damage and passed this information on to the government, Australian military and other NGOs responding. This information proved to be vital, with the PNG Defence Force Lead saying “MAF will pretty much determine which direction resources go, for they currently have the most information.”

In the days, weeks and months that followed, MAF continued to serve the people that had been impacted. We performed medical evacuations, delivered food, water and shelter supplies to stricken communities, and repatriated people back home once treated. By the end of the response, MAF had carried out 248 flights, transporting over 200,000kg of cargo and over 400 people on disaster response flights. We continue to serve the affected communities.

Relief supplies delivered to Huya, Papua New Guinea, following the 2018 earthquake
Photo: Michael Duncalfe

In April 2015, a massive earthquake, just north-west of Kathmandu in Nepal, flattened towns and villages. Relief agencies began to arrive in Nepal, but as roads had disappeared, they could not reach remote communities.

Even though MAF did not have a programme in Nepal, it was able to deploy two pilots from the Global Disaster Response team who secured the use of two helicopters and carried out an initial needs assessment. This identified an urgent need for a co-ordinated light helicopter service to reach more isolated and higher altitude communities, which MAF provided.

MAF also established logistics support at the airport, helping organisations like the UN's World Food Programme with ramp management, planning, cargo handling and helping smaller NGOs with warehousing logistics and coordination.

Unloading a helicopter, Nepal 2015
Dave Forney

Unloading relief supplies from a MAF plane following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti
MAF Archive

On the 12 January 2010, the small Caribbean island of Haiti was shattered by an earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale. Recovering from tropical storms and hurricanes from the previous year, the effects were devastating. With an estimated 220,000 people dead, many more were injured. Homes and schools were destroyed and 1.5million people were left homeless.

Within 48 hours, a MAF team had assembled in Port-au-Prince. A fully coordinated response effort was underway, partnering with over 60 relief agencies. We transported medical personnel, aid workers and critical relief supplies, and flew the injured to safety. Former US President, Bill Clinton, commended MAF saying, “By organising hundreds of relief flights and delivering thousands of pounds of supplies, you’ve had a critical impact on Haiti’s recovery.”

MAF provision of medical evacuation flights for injured patients following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti
Photo: Anthony Cece

A MAF C206 in Aceh, Indonesia, responding to desperate need following the 2004 tsunami
MAF Archive

The Boxing Day Tsunami, which impacted around 12 countries, was the result of an earthquake off the coast of Sumatra’s Aceh province in Indonesia. It killed at least 225,000 people and displaced 570,000 others. Bridges and roads were destroyed or covered with debris, making relief efforts overground almost impossible. MAF had been working in Indonesia since the 1950s and was one of the first responders, carrying out survey flights and delivering urgent food and medical supplies. Several relief organisations asked MAF to lead the coordination of the multi-agency response. 

Immediately, two MAF aircraft were deployed, making daily flights delivering aid to cut off and remote areas. They were soon joined by MAF’s amphibious de Havilland Turbo Beaver plane, loaned from Bangladesh, which could land in river inlets and on the sea, reaching communities totally cut off from help. 

With communications infrastructure destroyed, MAF also established communications centres so that relief workers could communicate with their main offices. Following the immediate aftermath, MAF continued to contribute, carrying building supplies and water pump equipment to those who needed it.

MAF relief flights and medical evacuations were vital in the wake of a severe earthquake in Papua, Indonesia, on the 26 June 1976. Fifteen villages were destroyed, one third of the population missing, and 80 percent of crops ruined. For the next six months, MAF would fly five tons of food each day to the stricken area.