Army engineers from Australia and an Air Force C27-J air crew responded rapidly to the Solomon Islands earthquake recently, conducting damage assessments on key infrastructure in Honiara and reconnaissance of the affected shoreline in south-west Guadalcanal.

Less than 24 hours after the earthquake, measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale, an Australian engineering team inspected the Solomon Islands National Referral Hospital, the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force – maritime wing at Aola Wharf, and other essential service structures in Honiara.

Engineering Officer Captain Luke Staples, from 12 Chief Engineer Works, said that while the buildings showed visible signs of damage, this was mostly superficial and should only require minor works to restore them.

“For an earthquake of this magnitude, the damage to these buildings was a lot less than we anticipated,” Captain Staples said.

“It’s important to be able to provide that assessment early to reassure the staff at these facilities so they can carry on doing the important work they’re doing,” Captain Staples said.

Simultaneously, the C27-J Spartan crew provided imagery to the National Emergency Operation Centre from a reconnaissance mission over the Guadalcanal shoreline closest to the epicentre of the quake.

The Spartan's captain, Flight Lieutenant Brendan Lohman, from 35 Squadron, said they captured images of any obvious signs of disturbance from the earthquake, along with the surrounding shorelines and inlets.

“It’s rewarding to be able to support the Solomon Islands government in its response to this event,” Flight Lieutenant Lohman said.

The Defence teams were in Honiara conducting site surveys and planning for the western border outpost and eastern border outpost, enabling them to quickly pivot to respond urgently to the Solomon Islands government’s request for post-earthquake site assessments.