Three flights from Australia carrying food, water, medical supplies and telecommunications equipment landed in Tonga on Saturday as the Pacific nation grapples with the aftermath of an undersea volcanic eruption and tsunami.
Aircraft from other nations, including New Zealand and Japan, have also brought much-needed aid to the people of Tonga, said Zed Seselja, Australia’s minister for international development and the Pacific.
The New Zealand Navy ship HMNZS Aotearoa arrived at Tonga’s Nuku’alofa port on Friday to deliver supplies, including much-needed clean water.
The first such aid arrived on Thursday, after the airport’s main runway was cleared of ash spewed when the nearby Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupted a week ago. The blast also triggered a Pacific-wide tsunami that wrecked ships in New Zealand and caused an oil spill as far as Peru.
“Obviously this is a very, very difficult time for the people of Tonga. The feedback on the ground I received today is a lot of displaced people,” Seselja told reporters in Canberra.
Cleanup efforts were proceeding smoothly, with Tongan government and military officials working together, he said.
Ships from the United States and Britain were on the way, he said. HMAS Adelaide, an Australian navy ship, with helicopters on board, as well as engineers and a 40-bed hospital, was also deployed. The ship can generate electricity and purify water.
The lack of clean water was a priority because supplies have been disrupted by layers of volcanic ash and salt water. Red Cross teams on the ground reported that the tsunami spewed pools of stagnant salt water that contaminated the drinking water sources of tens of thousands of people, said Katie Greenwood, Pacific director for the International Federation of the Red Cross and the Red Cross. Red Crescent. Societies.
Also on Saturday, the Japanese government said a Self-Defense Forces C-130 plane arrived in Tonga with three tons of drinking water. That followed a Japanese military flight on Friday. Another plane is scheduled to leave on Sunday with ash-cleaning equipment, the Defense Ministry said.
Seselja said one piece of good news is that casualties have been relatively limited, with three deaths confirmed so far.
Three of Tonga’s smaller islands were severely damaged by the tsunami waves. Most Tongans live on the main island of Tongatapu, where some 50 houses have been destroyed and shorelines littered with debris.
UN humanitarian officials reported that some 84,000 people, 80% of Tonga’s population, have been affected by the eruption.
The tsunami severed the only fiber optic cable connecting Tonga with the rest of the world, leaving many unable to connect with loved ones abroad. Since then, satellite communication has improved and Tonga’s telecoms operator Digicel said it was able to restore international calling services in some areas.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism