Tue. May 24th, 2022

UN says some 60,000 people have been affected by damage to crops, livestock and fisheries due to asphalt, saltwater intrusion and potential for acid rain.

More aid ships and aircraft will arrive in Tonga in the coming days as the international community responds to calls for urgent assistance from the Pacific island nation. after a devastating volcanic eruption and tsunami.

A New Zealand maritime maintenance vessel, the HMNZS Aotearoa, which can transport 250,000 liters of water and produce 70,000 liters a day through a desalination plant, is expected to arrive in Tonga on Friday.

The first flights from Australia and New Zealand landed in Tonga on Thursday with much-needed supplies of water for sanitation and hygiene as well as shelter, communications equipment and generators.

A second Australian aid flight had to turn back on Thursday due to flight problems and is now expected today, the Australian High Commissioner in Tonga said on Facebook.

More help is on the way with the HMAS Adelaide en route from Brisbane and will be in Tonga next week, it said.

Two Japanese C-130H planes carrying auxiliary supplies, including water, also left Komaki air base in Aichi Prefecture for Tonga on Thursday and are expected to arrive on Friday.

The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupted on Saturday with a deafening explosion, causing tsunamis that destroyed villages, resorts and many buildings and knocked out communications for the country of about 105,000 people.

At least three people were officially reported dead, although the actual extent of the casualties could not be determined immediately due to limited communication and difficulties in gaining access to some of the affected areas.

Ash covered the archipelago and spoiled much of its drinking water.

United Nations spokeswoman Stephane Dujarric said in a briefing that Tonga had called for urgent help and that the agency was in close contact with the authorities.

“Evaluation teams have reached most parts of the country, including remote and isolated islands,” Dujarric said.

“We remain seriously concerned about access to safe water for 50,000 people across the country. “Water quality testing continues, and most people rely on bottled water,” he said.

About 60,000 people were affected by damage to crops, livestock and fisheries due to asphalt, saltwater intrusion and the potential for acid rain, Dujarric said.

There are also reports of fuel shortages, he added.

Australia’s Foreign Secretary Marise Payne said on Friday that cash donations to Tonga for immediate humanitarian supplies – Australia had donated $ 1 million – would have to be followed up with more substantial support for reconstruction.

Telephone connections between Tonga and the outside world were reconnected late Wednesday, though restoring full internet service is likely to take a month or more.

Tongans have turned to social media to post images of the tsunami destruction and report their shock after the massive explosion.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center said the power of the eruption is estimated at the equivalent of five to 10 megatons of TNT, or more than 500 times that of the nuclear bomb that the United States dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima at the end of World War II.

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