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First flights to Tonga deliver aid, more help on the way

First flights to Tonga deliver aid, more help on the way

dpa
Wellington
The first flights into Tonga since Saturday’s volcanic eruption have delivered vital aid supplies to the Pacific nation.
The eruption of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano in Tonga has killed at least three people, blanketed the Pacific nation in volcanic ash and sent a tsunami across the wider Pacific.
Planes from New Zealand and Australia were able to land in Tonga on Thursday after volcanic ash was finally cleared, by hand, from the runway.
The delivery of supplies was contactless in a bid to keep Tonga free from Covid-19.
The New Zealand Defence Force’s Commander of Joint Forces Jim Gilmour said the confirmed death toll remained at three.
“From the size of that explosion that could be seen from orbit and the tsunami that was felt and experienced all the way across the Pacific, sadly I would be very surprised if there were not more injuries, but we’ll just have to get there to find out,” he said.
“Within our hearts, as with everyone else in New Zealand, we were very worried about the fate of the people in Tonga and further afield, it’s a massive detonation.”
Japan will also provide emergency supplies to Tonga “in light of the humanitarian perspective and the friendly relationship between the two countries,” a statement from the Government of Japan said.
The World Bank would provide an initial 8 million dollars in emergency financing to support Tonga, it said in a statement.
“While a full picture of the damage from this major disaster will require further assessment, we know that damages are significant Tongans have extraordinary strength and resilience,” World Bank Country Director for Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands Stephen Ndegwa said.
“The World Bank stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Tongans at this challenging time, as we will continue to do so in the months and years to come.”
The World Bank would also help finance project to strengthen the resilience of key infrastructure in Tonga, including government buildings and schools, as well as air and sea ports.
Australia’s Defence Minister Peter Dutton said Tonga was a “very important member of our Pacific family” and the country was committed to supporting the islands.
“The men and women of the Australian Defence Force will be working hard to help Tonga get back on its feet and recover from this catastrophic event.”
A New Zealand ship, carrying hydrographic and dive personnel and a helicopter to assist with supply delivery is expected to arrive in Tonga later on Thursday.
The crew’s first task will be to check shipping channels and wharf approaches to Tonga’s port.
A second ship carrying bulk water supplies, as well as other aid, is expected to arrive in Tonga on Friday, while a third ship is being readied to leave New Zealand for Tonga on Saturday.
Communications with Tonga remain limited, although some international calls are now able to be made via a satellite link.
However, demand is exceeding capacity and the connection was inconsistent.

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