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Tonga: First aid flights arrive as disaster-hit islands aim to keep Covid-19 out

Flights from Australia and New Zealand carrying humanitarian aid and catastrophe reduction landed at Fua’amotu International Airport in Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, after the runway was cleared of volcanic ash and particles following Saturday’s violent eruption of the underwater Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano.
The aid will likely be delivered with none contact, to stop the chance of Covid-19 spreading within the nation — which has solely seen a single case for the reason that begin of the pandemic. Tonga has totally vaccinated greater than 80% of its eligible inhabitants towards the illness, in accordance to the World Health Organization.

A New Zealand Air Force C-130 Hercules plane carrying sanitation, water purification, shelter and hygiene kits together with turbines and communications gear, has arrived in Tonga, Wellington’s Foreign Ministry stated in an announcement Thursday.

It was anticipated to be on the bottom for up to 90 minutes earlier than returning to New Zealand, the assertion added.

“There is going to be no contact. We have been rigorously disciplined in ensuring that Covid is not transmitted into Tonga,” New Zealand’s commander of Joint Forces, Rear Adm. Jim Gilmour, advised reporters.

In addition, the offshore patrol vessel HMNZS Wellington is predicted to arrive on the Nuku’alofa harbour on Thursday, forward of different provide ships, in accordance to an announcement from the New Zealand authorities.

The ship is transporting hydrographic and dive personnel, and has a helicopter to help with provide supply, the assertion stated.

Another navy vessel carrying 250,000 liters of water will arrive in Tonga on Friday, Gilmour stated.

The first of two C-17 Royal Australian Air Force planes has additionally landed in Tonga, in accordance to Australia’s worldwide growth minister.

“Landed! [Australia]’s first RAAF flight carrying much needed humanitarian supplies has landed in Tonga, & a second C-17 is now on it’s way,” Minister Zed Seselja tweeted Thursday. “These flights will deliver shelter, hygiene kits, PPE for people clearing ash, water containers, & other supplies to support immediate needs.”

Meanwhile, one other Australian Navy ship carrying aid will “soon” sail from Brisbane to Tonga, Australia’s Defense Department wrote on Twitter on Thursday.

“Tonga remains Covid-19 free and I reassured [Tongan] Prime Minister [Siaosi] Sovaleni that we are placing the highest priority on delivering Australia’s support in a COVID-safe way,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison stated in an announcement Wednesday.

Australia has made an preliminary pledge of greater than $700,000 towards Tonga’s restoration effort, Morrison added.

Japan’s Defense Ministry stated Thursday it’ll additionally ship two C-130 plane carrying consuming water to Tonga.

Tonga’s ‘unprecedented catastrophe’

Tonga faces “an unprecedented disaster,” Sovaleni stated Tuesday following the volcanic eruption that triggered a tsunami, sending waves up to 49 toes (15 meters) crashing into the principle island, Tongatapu, and the ‘Eua and Ha’api islands.

At least three individuals died and plenty of others have been injured, the Tongan Prime Minister stated.

All the homes on the island of Mango — the place 36 individuals stay — have been destroyed, whereas solely two homes stay on Fonoifua island, and intensive harm was reported on Nomuka island — residence to 239 individuals, he added.

The island nation of greater than 100,000 individuals was largely lower off from the remainder of the world after a key underwater cable was broken within the eruption. Some smaller islands are nonetheless offline, with officers and rescue staff racing to set up communication.

First particulars of the devastation only emerged on Tuesday after Australia and New Zealand made reconnaissance flights to the archipelago — a three- to five-hour journey.

Photos confirmed whole island communities blanketed by a thick layer of grey ash, houses and buildings destroyed and coastal roads badly broken.

A damaged area in Nuku'alofa, Tonga, on January 20, 2022.

The ash, coupled with stagnant water from the tsunami, contaminated water and meals sources, in accordance to the Red Cross.

The supply of aid was hampered by ashfall protecting the airport runway, forcing New Zealand to ship two navy ships to help with restoration on Tuesday.

Securing entry to protected consuming water stays a essential precedence for aid teams, who’re involved in regards to the unfold of diarrhea and ailments such as cholera.

Tonga faces 'unprecedented disaster' as New Zealand warns of further eruptions and tsunami risk

The explosion of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano despatched shockwaves world wide and triggered tsunami waves that have been felt hundreds of kilometers away, killing not less than two individuals in Peru.

The volcano sits on the seismically energetic Pacific Ring of Fire, and is about 65 kilometers (40 miles) north of Tonga’s capital.

On Tuesday, New Zealand’s Foreign Ministry warned additional eruptions of the volcano have been probably, posing a tsunami danger.

The estimation was primarily based on modeling by GNS Science, a New Zealand geological analysis institute, the ministry stated. “The most likely scenario is for ongoing eruptions in the next several days to weeks, with ongoing tsunami risk to Tonga and New Zealand,” it stated.

CNN’s Angus Watson in Sydney, Caitlin McGee in Auckland, Eric Cheung, Lizzy Yee and Alex Stambaugh in Hong Kong contributed reporting

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