Wellington, New Zealand — The first flight to carry freshwater and other aid to Tonga finally arrived Thursday after the runways of major airports in the Pacific nation were cleared of ash left by a massive volcanic eruption. ..
New Zealand and Australia each sent military transport planes carrying water containers, temporary shelter kits, generators, sanitary supplies and communications equipment. Australian planes also had special sweepers that helped keep the runway clean.
Delivery was discontinued without military personnel contacting people at the airport in Tonga. This is because Tonga is desperate to prevent foreigners from bringing in the coronavirus. No COVID-19 has occurred, and only one has been reported since the pandemic began.
Maj. Gen. James Gilmore, commander of the New Zealand Joint Forces, said the Tongan army “had a” huge effort “to clear the runway by hand.” And they achieved it this afternoon. “
Australia said this assistance would help the Government of Tonga meet the needs of the community and support immediate cleanup activities.
Japan also said it was sending emergency relief, including drinking water and equipment to clear the ash. Two C-130 Hercules aircraft will depart Thursday evening, and a transport vessel carrying two CH-47 Chinook helicopters will depart as soon as they are ready, the Defense Ministry said.
Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi told reporters that the ministry “will do everything it can for the victims of Tonga.”
UN spokesman Stephen Dujaric said UN spokesman Stephen Dujaric reported that about 84,000 people (more than 80% of Tonga’s population) were affected by the volcanic eruption, killing three people. , Injured, lost homes, and pointed out water pollution.
Communication with Tonga remains restricted after Saturday’s eruption and tsunami appeared to cut a single fiber optic cable connecting Tonga and the rest of the world. This means that some local phone networks are still working, but most people couldn’t use the internet or make calls abroad.
One telco, Digicel, said Thursday that it was able to regain the ability to make international calls from several locations using satellite links, but people need to be patient because of the high demand. He said he wanted to enhance the service in the next few days.
Navy patrol vessels from New Zealand will also arrive late Thursday. There are also helicopters that carry waterway equipment and divers and assist in the delivery of supplies.
Authorities said the ship’s first mission was to check the transport routes and structural integrity of the pier in the capital Nuku’alofa after the eruption and tsunami.
Another Royal New Zealand Navy vessel carrying 250,000 liters (66,000 gallons) of water is in service. Ships can also use desalination plants to produce tens of thousands of liters of freshwater daily.
Three of Tonga’s small islands were severely damaged by the tsunami, officials and the Red Cross said.
“It seems that all the houses on Mango Island have been destroyed, only two houses remain on Phonoifua Island, and great damage has been reported on Nomuka Island,” said UN Dujaric. He said evacuation was underway for people from the island.
According to the Tonga census, there are 36 people in Mango, 69 in Phonoifa and 239 in Nomka. The majority of Tongans live on Tongatapu Island, and about 50 houses have been destroyed.
Dujarric said the most pressing humanitarian needs are safe water, food and non-food, and the top priority is to reestablish communication services such as international calls and the Internet.
Tonga has so far avoided the widespread devastation that many were initially afraid of.