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NZ ready to assist Tonga in it’s recovery plan

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View from Nomuka Tonga. Photo: MFAT
View from Nomuka Tonga. Photo: MFAT

New Zealand is ready to assist Tonga in its recovery from Saturday night’s undersea eruption and tsunami, Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Defence Minister Peeni Henare said today.

Leaving Kiwi shores yesterday, the New Zealand P-3K2 Orion conducted a surveillance and reconnaissance flight, gathering imagery and details.

“[They] have been sent to relevant authorities in Tonga, to aid in decisions about what support is most needed,” said Mahuta.

“However images show ashfall on the Nuku’alofa airport runway that must be cleared before a C-130 Hercules flight with humanitarian assistance can land.”

With Tonga’s undersea fibre cable damaged in the wake of the eruption, Mahuta mentioned communication issues will be a challenge for the disaster response.

“The delays mean we have taken the decision for both HMNZS Wellington and HMNZS Aotearoa to sail so they can respond quickly if called upon by the Tongan Government,” Mahuta says.

Henare adds, “HMNZS Wellington will be carrying Hydrographic Survey and Diving Teams, as well as an SH-2G(I) Seasprite helicopter. HMNZS Aotearoa will carry bulk water supplies and humanitarian and disaster relief stores.”

Air Movements personnel stack and secure pallets of disaster relief supplies to be sent to by Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 to Tonga, in the wake of a Tsunami triggered by volcanic eruption.  Photo: NZ Defence Force

“Water is among the highest priorities for Tonga at this stage and HMNZS Aotearoa can carry 250,000 litres, and produce 70,000 litres per day through a desalination plant.”

“The survey and diving teams are able to show changes to the seabed in the shipping channels and ports. They will also assess wharf infrastructure to assure the future delivery of aid and support from the sea.”

It will take three days for the New Zealand vessels to reach Tongan waters, and will return if not required.

Humanitarian aid and disaster relief is on standby with a C-130 Hercules aircraft, which will takeoff once Tonga’s main runway has been cleared.

“Other deployments are possible in the next few days, subject to Tongan Government requests and permissions, and COVID-19 border rules,” Mahuta adds.

Tonga is currently free of COVID and operates strict border controls to keep COVID-19 out. All current support is being delivered in a contactless way. Officials are in discussions around long-term options for support.

The New Zealand Government has also allocated a further $500,000 in humanitarian assistance, taking our initial funding total to $1 million.

Source: NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

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