- New Zealand Navy ships will reach Tonga on Friday
- Airport may reopen on Thursday
- Australian PM talks to Tongan counterpart
- Japan, US, China and Australia offered aid
Jan 19 () – Two New Zealand naval ships that supply vital water for the Pacific island nation battling volcanic eruptions and tsunamis will arrive in Tonga on Friday and remain largely cut off from the outside world.
At least three people were killed and hundreds of homes destroyed in the tiny outlying islands of Tonga, as tsunami waves rolled over the islands after Saturday’s massive eruption, home to 105,000 people. read more
The scale of the devastation came mostly from reconnaissance aircraft, with Tonga’s airport soaked in volcanic ash and communications disrupted by cable breaks under the sea.
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But photos posted on social media revealed more devastation on Wednesday, showing coastal areas where trees and buildings were swept away and neighborhoods covered with a thick layer of ash. The people together cleared the debris and inspected the ruins of their homes.
The Red Cross said its teams in Tonga have confirmed that salt water from tsunamis and volcanic ash is polluting the drinking water of thousands of people.
“Ensuring access to safe drinking water is an important urgent priority … as the risk of diseases such as cholera and diarrhea is increasing,” said Katie Greenwood of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
New Zealand said Tonga, one of the few countries to be free of the new coronavirus, had agreed to receive two of its ships, Aotearoa and Wellington, regarding imports amid the COVID-19 outbreak Despite concerns that would exacerbate its woes.
Aotearoa’s captain Simon Griffiths stated that his ship was carrying 250,000 liters of water, along with other supplies, and had the capacity to produce 70,000 liters a day.
Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haapai Volcano about 40 miles (65 km) from the Tongan capital erupted with an eruption that was heard 2,300 km (1,400 mi) away in New Zealand, and sent a tsunami into the Pacific Ocean.
James Garwin, chief scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said the force of the explosion was estimated to be equivalent to five to 10 megatons of TNT, or more than 500 times that of the atomic bomb dropped on a Japanese city by the United States. of Hiroshima at the end of World War II.
Waves of up to 15 m (49 ft) hit the outer Hapia Islands, destroying all homes on Mango Island, as well as off the west coast of Tonga’s main island, Tongatapu, where 56 homes were destroyed or severely damaged. got damaged. , the Prime Minister’s Office said.
ashes and debris
Tongan communities abroad have already posted photos of families to Facebook, giving glimpses of homes buried in rubble, fallen trees, broken roads and sidewalks and everything covered in gray ash.
Tonga has largely gone offline after the volcano damaged its only underwater fiber-optic communication cable. Its owner said it would probably take a month or more to fix it.
Telecommunications operator Digicel said it had restored some international phone service to Tonga via a satellite link, though several attempts to get by were unsuccessful.
The archipelago consists of 176 islands, of which 36 are inhabited. Its main airport, Fuamoto International, was not damaged by the tsunami but was covered in ash, which has had to be cleaned up by hand.
A Tongan official said aid flights from New Zealand and Australia could begin as early as Thursday.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks with Tongan Prime Minister Siaosi Sowaleni.
He said two Hercules aircraft were ready to depart with humanitarian supplies and telecommunications equipment, and a naval ship, the Adelaide, was preparing to depart Brisbane with water purification equipment and additional humanitarian supplies.
Australia and New Zealand have also promised immediate financial assistance.
The US Agency for International Development immediately approved $100,000 in aid, and Japan said it would give more than $1 million in aid as well as equipment to clean drinking water and ash.
The Asian Development Bank was discussing with Tonga whether it would declare a state of emergency to draw on a $10 million disaster facility, senior bank official Emma Vevey told .
China said it would send aid, including water and food, when the airport opens.
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Reporting by Praveen Menon, Kirsty Needham, Tom Westbrook, Karen Lema, Kiyoshi Takenaka and Jane Wardell; Written by Robert Birsel and Philippa Fletcher; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Janet Lawrence
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