Australia, New Zealand and Japan provide water, supplies and telecommunications aid to Tonga

This combination of these satellite images provided by Maxar Technologies shows an overview of Nomuka in the Tonga group of islands on August 17, 2020, left, and January 20, 2022, right, showing the damage after the January 15 eruption . (Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies via AP)

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CANBERRA, Australia – 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 a Underwater volcanic eruption and tsunami.

Planes from other countries, including New Zealand and Japan, also delivered much-needed aid to the Tongan people, said Zed Seselja, Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific.

The first such aid arrived on Thursday, after 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 it’s a very, very difficult time for Tonga. The feedback from the ground that I still received today is a lot of displaced people,” Seselja told 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 clean 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.

Also on Saturday, the Japanese government said a Self-Defense Force C-130 aircraft 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.

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