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Tonga destruction, First Overseas Assitance Arrives

Satellite images show the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano before and after (via REUTERS)

TONGA: New Zealand’s first Hercules overseas help plane carrying emergency supplies landed in Tonga on Thursday morning. Tonga received its first foreign relief plane, which is delivering much-needed water and supplies.

Ash from the eruption of underwater volcano Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai has blanketed Tonga.

After workers cleaned ash from the runway, New Zealand’s military jet arrived at Tonga’s airport. New Zealand and Australia have dispatched additional aid planes and ships, for Tonga, one of the most remote countries in the world. Volcanic ash blanketed the islands when the underwater volcano erupted on Saturday, creating a major health concern. Ash and seawater have affected the water resources.

Volcanic ash covers rooftops and vegetation in an area of Tonga, January 17

It has killed at least three people and communications have been disrupted. Tonga is just now beginning to re-establish worldwide contact after being cut off for five days. The airport runway in Nuku’alofa’s city was blanketed with a thick coating of ash, prohibiting flights from landing.
Rescue teams and hundreds of volunteers toiled for days to clean the tarmac with wheelbarrows and shovels, in what Rear Admiral Jim Gilmour, New Zealand’s commander of combined forces, termed a “mammoth effort.”

“Nuku’alofa, the “city” of The Kingdom of Tonga, covered in volcanic ash”, Tonga’s consulate tweeted late on Wednesday night.

On Thursday, Gilmour informed reporters that their C130 Hercules jet landed in Tonga shortly after 16:00 local time (03:00 GMT). Water containers, temporary shelter kits, electrical generators, hygiene and family supplies, and communications equipment were among the items on board.


The first of Australia’s two Boeing C17 Globemaster planes bringing aid supplies also arrived on Thursday, with a “sweeping” gear on board to assist keep the runway free. The initial foreign assistance shipments prioritised equipment to repair and expand telecommunications, as well as essential water, medical, and hygiene supplies.

Tongan officials have requested that relief drops be near waterways in order to avoid COVID-19 from spreading to the island, which has only seen one case of the virus so far in the epidemic.

Major damage next to the coastline.after volcano eruption in Tonga

The drops will be contactless, according to Australian and New Zealand officials.
No Australian humanitarian assistance troops will disembark from their flights, as per Australia.

New Zealand’s Defence Minister Peeni Henare stated, “The aircraft is expected to stay on the ground for up to 90 minutes before returning to New Zealand.”

Mr Henare previously told the BBC that the supply ships will deliver over 250,000 gallons of fresh water and desalination technology to extract salt from the water.

“The most important issue that the Tongan administration has raised is the lack of fresh water,” he stated

Meanwhile, the Mormon nation, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints claims it has been giving major shelter and clean water supplies to people in recent days. Each night this week, almost 1,000 people sought refuge at the Church.

Tonga’s contact is still restricted. Digicel, a telecommunications operator, has restored a 2G connection, but the line is being overloaded by demand. It might take weeks to repair the major underwater cable that connects the tiny island country to the rest of the globe.

The volcano, about 30 kilometres from the Tongan island of Fonuafo’ou, sent plumes of ash and rock to neighbouring islands and triggered a tsunami.

The magnitude of the destruction, including vehicles, roads, and buildings in Nuku’alofa blanketed in ash, was recently shown in photos supplied by Tonga’s embassy in the European Union. The photographs also show the aftermath of the tsunami waves, which Tonga’s government has termed as a “unprecedented calamity” on the island of Tongatapu’s coastal sections.


After waves of more than a metre high slammed onto Tonga, debris is strewn over the shoreline. Meanwhile, aerial photographs captured by the New Zealand Air Force show that some settlements on yet-to-be-reached islands have been wiped out.

The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano’s eruption also sent shock waves as far as the United States. Two individuals passed away in Peru due to unusually high waves, while beaches around the capital Lima were blocked because of an oil leak.

Aimen Bukhari
Written By

Works at The Truth International Magazine. My area of interest includes international relations, peace & conflict studies, qualitative & quantitative research in social sciences, and world politics. Reach@ aimen.bukhari@tti.org.pk

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