Disasters & Accidents

Tonga picks up the pieces with a steady flow of international aid

Sydney, Australia, Jan 22 (EFE).- A week after the violent eruption of the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano and the subsequent tsunami, the Pacific island of Tonga is gradually picking itself up with the help of a steady flow of international aid.

The Tonga government on Saturday released only its second official statement since the natural disaster last weekend in which it said 84% of the population had been affected by the fallout of volcanic ash and the tsunami that surged through the island chain.

For the third day in a row, New Zealand has sent a plane carrying humanitarian aid with a particular focus on providing drinking water given that volcanic ash has contaminated water reserves in several parts of Tonga.

The New Zealand armed forces said it had disembarked 185,000 of the 250,000 liters of water that arrived Friday on board the HMNZS Aotearoa, which also delivered a desalination machine.

Another ship, the HMNZS Canterbury, left its naval base on Saturday transporting more water, powdered milk, vehicles and construction material to help Tonga recover from the damage wrought by the volcano. It is due to arrive in the archipelago at the start of next week.

The Australian HMAS Adelaide is due to arrive in Tonga on Wednesday with more potable water and a field hospital comprising 40 beds, the country’s minister for international development Zed Seselja said on Twitter.

Fifteen-meter high waves caused by the volcano destroyed all of the buildings on some of Tonga’s smaller islands, including Mango island, whose population has since been relocated to Tongatapu, the principal island in the archipelago, according to the Tongan government.

Communications on the island, plunged into a blackout after the volcano, are gradually being restored by the government and telecommunications companies.

Limited internet connection has been recovered thanks to equipment provided by New Zealand, the Tongan government said, while work was underway to repair the island’s fiber optic cable, which was destroyed by the tsunami.

Australia and New Zealand, the region’s most powerful nations despite the growing influence of China, have spear-headed the aid program for Tonga.

Beijing on Wednesday donated hundreds of crates of bottled water and pledged to deliver medical equipment and generators.

The United Kingdom said in a statement Friday that it would send water, tents and other supplies via the Australian navy.

The eruption of the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano, which caused tsunamis in several countries with a Pacific coastline, was the loudest eruption on record, according to the New Zealand-based GNS Science. EFE


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