Australia expands post-tsunami relief assistance to Tonga

HMAS Adelaide delivered helicopters and engineering equipment from Australia to Tonga to support the logistics and distribution of humanitarian and medical supplies after the January 15 volcanic eruption, and the subsequent tsunami devastated the Pacific island nations. I did.

Australia has sent 40 tonnes of relief supplies to Tonga. This includes shelter materials, water and sanitation facilities, equipment to restore communications, and personal protective equipment for people who remove ash.

The tsunami damaged the submarine fiber optic cable, disrupting communication.New Zealand government Said Digicel’s customers’ phone connections continue to improve, but they can still be difficult.

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The image provided shows HMAS Adelaide approaching the port of Nuku’alofa in Tonga on Wednesday, January 26, 2022. (AAP image / Pentagon, provided by Robert Whitmore)

Foreign Minister Marise Payne has expanded support for Australia with an additional $ 2 million ($ 3.2 million) to help restore electricity and communications, storing and delivering relief supplies, and further on the most affected remote islands. Announced that it will expand its support through recovery efforts. ..

“We are grateful to the Government of Tonga for deciding to allow HMAS Adelaide to dock and offload humanitarian and medical supplies and to prioritize the safety of COVID throughout the recovery process,” said Payne. Says. Said in the release January 26th.

Hunga Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano had been erupting ash and smoke for weeks, but the normal east-southeast winds moved away from Tonga until the wind changed on January 14, the day before the eruption.

Damaged area of ​​Nuku'alofa in Tonga
This photo, provided by Broadcom Broadcasting, shows the area affected by Nuku’alofa in Tonga on January 20, 2022. (MarianKupu / Broadcom Broadcasting via AP)

“Around 5 pm on Saturday, I heard the first sound of a very big explosion now. It was as if heaven was about to fall apart,” said local veteran journalist and security analyst Tebitama Tullaro. I told the Sunday Guardian in a text message during a short period of communication.

“Since ancient times, there have been very large cracks that we have not experienced in our life experiences, and the elders have experienced several eruptions and their own national evacuation. Glass and curtains in places. I was blown out of the window. “

The explosion was “large enough to be heard by the hearing impaired,” and the early warning system did not work, but the tsunami warning the day before raised alerts and immediately evacuated to higher ground.

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This handout, provided by the Australian Defense Force, shows members of the Australian Defense Force to HMAS Adelaide on January 20, 2022, as they prepare to depart for an aid mission at the Port of Brisbane in Nuku’alofa, Tonga. Get in. CPL Robert Whitmore / Australian Defense Force by Getty Images)

Smoke smoke rushed straight out of the horizon into the sky and continued until it disappeared.

“It’s as if it’s erupting into the universe itself. Then a huge, vague shadow of dust turned into a mushroom behind the heavens, covering half of the sky,” Motulalo said.

The first wave arrived shortly after the shock wave, crossing the west bank about two miles wide and rushing over land into the sea on the other side.

About an hour after the eruption, small volcanic pumice and pebbles of about 0.5 centimeters landed, followed by ash and gusts picking up and throwing debris everywhere.

“This forced a car full of women and children to close the windows, making the interior of the car look like a small oven,” says Motulalo.

The internet, communications, and electricity soon disappeared after the ashes of the pile short-circuited the transformers in the grid.

“So we were at the top of the inland hills and shelters in the darkness of orange-reddish shades,” he said.

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During OPTONGA ASSIST 22 on January 26, 2022, humanitarian and disaster relief stores are preparing to unload as HMAS Adelaide departs for Tonga. (CPL Robert Whitmore / ADF)

According to the New Zealand government, US cable company SubCom advises that it will take weeks for Tonga’s cable connections to be repaired.

“It was almost biblical. Strong gusts, stinging, falling pebbles, and dazzling ashes were accompanied by female mourning and squeaking screams of babies and toddlers. And now they are on their way. “

Fear and heat reminded Motulalo of a picture of Sheol, described in the Hebrew Scriptures as a place of darkness where all the dead go.

“If there was a picture of Sheol crying and clenching his teeth, that would probably be the closest thing I could get,” he said.

However, after a few hours, the ash clouds had diminished to “decline” and “sprinkle”, and hours later, it became clear to the evacuated people that the water had receded.

Two Tongan people and one British person died in the disaster.

Caden Pearson


Caden Pearson is an Australian-based reporter with a background in screenwriting and documentary. Contact him at [email protected]