Finally, help reaches the devastated Tonga, water supply ship awaits

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The first emergency plane arrived in Tonga on Thursday, five days after a devastating volcanic eruption and tsunami, as scattered communities awaited the arrival of a ship carrying equipment to replenish drinking water supplies.

A Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 Hercules landed at the South Pacific island nation’s Fua’amotu International Airport, a defense spokesman said, after a blanket of volcanic ash was removed from the runway.

The ash has spoiled much of the archipelago’s drinking water.


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An Australian Globemaster C-17A military transport also landed, with a second Australian aircraft scheduled to depart later in the evening.

Australian Defense Secretary Peter Dutton said the Globemaster was loaded with supplies including desalination equipment, accommodation, galleys and a sweeper to remove the ash from the airport.

“Today’s C-17A flight was made possible thanks to the tireless efforts of the Tongan authorities who worked to clear a thick layer of volcanic ash from the runway,” Dutton said in a statement.

The New Zealand plane was carrying humanitarian supplies and disaster relief, including emergency shelter kits, generators, hygiene and family kits and communications equipment, Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said.


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Supplies brought in by both planes were delivered contactless to ensure Tonga remains free of the coronavirus.

Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupted with a deafening explosion olcanic-blast – they-fled-safety-2022-01-20 on Saturday, triggering tsunamis that killed at least three people and destroyed villages, resorts and many buildings, and cut communications for the nation’s approximately 105,000 people.

Rachael Moore, Australia’s High Commissioner for Tonga, said the property loss had been “catastrophic” and drinking water was “an extremely high priority”.

The first of two New Zealand Navy ships also arrived on Thursday, the High Commission said.


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The second ship was on its way with 250,000 liters of water and desalination plants capable of producing 70,000 liters per day. The commission said it would review shipping lanes and jetties at the port of Tonga in preparation for her arrival on Friday.

“Along the western beaches there is a lunar landscape that was once home to beautiful resorts and many, many houses,” Moore told Australian radio.

In a radio address, Tonga’s King Tupou VI called for courage and hard work in the reconstruction process.

However, telephone connections between Tonga and the outside world were restored late Wednesday According to the Owners of the archipelago’s only underwater communications cable would likely take a month or more to restore full internet service.


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Speaking to Reuters from the capital Nuku’alofa, journalist Marian Kupu said Tongans were cleaning up all the dust from the volcanic eruption but feared they might run out of drinking water.

“Each house has its own water tanks, but most of them are filled with dust, so it’s not safe,” Kupu said.


An Australian relief ship is scheduled to set sail on Friday.

Tongans abroad were frantically calling families at home to make sure they were safe.

“It was very relieving to hear from them,” said Fatafehi ​​Fakafanua, the speaker of the Tonga Legislative Assembly, who was in New Zealand at the time of the disaster after contacting his family.

“The government has advised them to drink bottled water, cover up outside and also wear masks because of the ashes.”


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The United Nations said about 84,000 people – more than 80% of the population – were severely affected by the disaster, with clean water being “the number one life-saving issue”.

The volcano erupted about 40 miles (65 km) from the Tongan capital, with an explosion heard 2,300 km away in New Zealand.

Waves up to 15 meters high hit the outer Ha’apai group of islands, destroying all houses on Mango Island and the west coast of Tonga’s main island, Tongatapu, where 56 houses were destroyed or badly damaged.

Reports of miraculous escapes surface, including that of a 57-year-old hailed as a “real Aquaman” – after-tsunami-2022-01-20,” after recounting how he had to swim for about 27 hours after being swept away by the tsunami.

(Reporting by Praveen Menon, Kirsty Needham, and Michelle Nichols; writing by Robert Birsel and John Stonestreet; editing by Michael Perry, Richard Pullin, and Janet Lawrence)



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