International aid arrives in Tonga with clean water and supplies
Aid flights from Australia, Japan and New Zealand carrying food, water, medical supplies and telecommunications equipment landed in Tonga over the weekend as the nation of Pacific is struggling with the aftermath of an underwater volcanic eruption and tsunami.
The airport’s main runway was cleared of ash spewed out when the nearby Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupted a week ago. The blast also triggered a Pacific-wide tsunami that destroyed boats 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 I have received again today from the ground is many displaced people,” said Australia’s Minister for International Development and of the Pacific, Zed Seselja, to reporters in Canberra.
Cleanup efforts were going smoothly, with Tongan government and military officials working together, he said.
Ships from the United States and Britain were on their way, he said. HMAS Adelaide, an Australian Navy ship, with helicopters on board as well as engineers and a 40-bed hospital, has also been deployed. The ship can generate electricity and purify water.
Lack of potable water was a priority as supplies were disrupted by layers of volcanic ash and salt water.
Red Cross teams on the ground reported large pools of stagnant salt water that were dumped by the tsunami, polluting drinking water sources for tens of thousands of people, said Katie Greenwood, Pacific Officer for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Companies.
On Saturday, the Japanese government said a C-130 aircraft from the Self-Defense Forces arrived in Tonga with three tons of drinking water. This followed a Japanese military flight on Friday. Another plane is due to take off on Sunday, carrying ash cleanup equipment, the Defense Ministry said.
Seselja said the good news was that casualties have been relatively limited, with three deaths confirmed so far.
Three of Tonga’s smaller islands were badly damaged by the tsunami waves. The majority of Tongans live on the main island of Tongatapu, where around 50 houses were destroyed and the coasts littered with debris.
UN humanitarian officials reported that around 84,000 people – 80% of Tonga’s population – were affected by the eruption.
The tsunami severed the only fiber optic cable that connects Tonga to the rest of the world, leaving many people unable to connect with loved ones overseas. Since then, satellite communications have improved and Tonga’s telecoms operator, Digicel, said it was able to restore international calling services in some areas.
(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)