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RAF plane leaves Brize Norton to help following Vanuatu cyclone

An RAF plane carrying aid has flown out today to help relief efforts following a devastating tropical cyclone in the South Pacific which has wiped out much of Vanuatu.

The package, containing 1,640 shelter kits and 1,900 solar lanterns with phone chargers, comes after the Government announced a £2m donation towards UN humanitarian aid efforts.

Cyclone Pam tore through the archipelago of islands with winds of up to 155mph and heavy rainfall causing widespread destruction. A C-17 transport plane flew out from RAF Brize Norton this morning bound for the Royal Australian Air Force base at Amberley, Australia, before linking up with international agencies.

A humanitarian expert from the Department for International Development has also been deployed to offer advice and assistance on field assessments, while the RAF crew will carry out support flights over several days.

The country's president Baldwin Lonsdale estimated the cyclone had destroyed or damaged 90% of the buildings in the capital of Port Vila.

"The terrible effects of Cyclone Pam are now clear and many people are in urgent need of relief. The Royal Air Force's swift and invaluable support will ensure victims of the cyclone get the help they need to start putting their lives back together. Families' homes have been destroyed and power supplies are down. Our emergency shelter kits and solar lanterns will help meet people's basic needs and Britain stands ready to assist further."

– International Development Secretary Justine Greening


Our fallen heroes return

Sergeant Jonathan Eric Kups (left) and Captain James Townley Credit: MOD

The bodies of Captain James Townley, from Tunbridge Wells, and Wiltshire based Sergeant Jonathan Eric Kups are being flown home today.

A private ceremony will be held at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire before they're taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital.

Capt Townley, 29, died in Camp Bastion from wounds sustained while serving at a forward operating base ast Friday.

His family said: "James was a wonderful, loving and caring son and brother. He was devoted to his girlfriend, Helen. He was our guardian angel and our hero. We were so proud of him."

Sgt Kups, a husband and father of three, died the same day. An electronics technician, the 38-year-old was described by his commanding officer as "a man of real substance".

In a statement, his family said: "Jonathan was a wonderful husband and loving father to three children.

He was a loyal man with a wide circle of friends, a devoted son, son-in-law, grandson and brother."

His children described him as "the best Dad: our hero".


Body flown back to RAF Brize Norton

Stephen Healey died in Helmand Province on Saturday Credit: PA

The body of a soldier killed in Afghanistan has been flown back into RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

29 year old Stephen James Healey who served with the 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh died after his vehicle struck a bomb in Helmand Province on Saturday.

This afternoon, his cortege passed the memorial garden in Carterton en route to the John Radcliffe Hospital.

Soldiers to be repatriated

Corporal Andrew Roberts and Private Ratu Silibaravi Credit: MoD

Two Oxfordshire based soldiers are due to be repatriated to RAF Brize Norton later today.

Corp Andrew Roberts was killed alongside Priv Ratu Silibaravi during an indirect fire attack on their base in Nahr-e Saraj, Afghanistan, last Friday.

Both served in the 23 Pioneer Regiment, The Royal Logistic Corps, based in Bicester.