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Australia and New Zealand provide humanitarian aid

Rescue is organised. The first planes carrying emergency aid and communication devices landed on the morning of Thursday, January 20, in the Tonga Islands, cut off from the world five days after a devastating eruption and tsunami.

The small Pacific nation has been isolated since the eruption on January 15 of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano, one of the most powerful in the world for decades, which caused heavy damage and the rupture of the cable of communications linking the country to the global Internet and telephone networks.

Read also Tonga Islands: Satellite images show the extent of the damage after the eruption which killed at least two people on the archipelago

The runway on the main island of Tongatapu was cleared on Wednesday of the five to ten centimeter thick layer of volcanic ash that covered it and made it unusable until now.

“Landed! »exclaimed Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Zed Seselja, welcoming the arrival of a C-17 transporter with on board “essential humanitarian supplies”. “A second C-17 is on the way”he added.

New Zealand has also confirmed the arrival of its military transport aircraft. The plane “carries humanitarian aid and disaster relief materials, including water containers, hygiene kits, temporary shelters, generators and communications equipment”said New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta.

80% of the population affected by the disaster

Help will also arrive by sea: the ship Adelaide, of the Australian fleet, is about to set sail for Tonga with relief equipment on board. This is “hope and intention” from Canberra that the boat leaves on Friday, an Australian defense official said. He will bring “additional water purification equipment and humanitarian supplies”said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday. Two Chinook heavy-lift helicopters were also loaded onto theAdelaide.

Two New Zealand ships Wellington and theAotearoa, carrying drinking water and a desalination unit capable of supplying 70,000 liters per day, left for the archipelago. China has announced the shipment of basic necessities.

About 84,000 people, or more than 80% of the population of the Tonga islands, have been affected by the eruption of the Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano and subsequent tsunami, the United Nations (UN) said on Wednesday. , specifying that evacuations of particularly affected islands were in progress. Among the most urgent humanitarian needs are drinking water and food, in addition to the restoration of telephone and Internet connections, said UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric.

Three people were killed and others injured when the Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupted on January 15, triggering a tsunami that destroyed many homes and caused flooding.

Ash Contaminated Water

The government of Tonga called this disaster a ” unprecedented “stating that waves reaching up to 15 meters in height had destroyed all the dwellings on some islands.

The volcanic eruption, heard as far away as Alaska (United States), more than 9,000 km away, was the largest recorded in decades. A huge mushroom of smoke 30 km high, which dispersed ash, gas and acid rain on the 170 islands that make up the Tongan archipelago.

“Tonga’s water supplies have been severely contaminated by ash and salt water from the tsunami”, explained Katie Greenwood, of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. She added that there was “a great risk of diseases, such as cholera and diarrhoea”.

Tonga’s food reserves may not be sufficient. In tears, the President of the National Assembly, Fatafehi ​​Fakafanua, affirmed that “all agriculture is ruined”. “It’s very sad to hear, so in addition to the water we need in Tonga, it looks like we’re going to face a food shortage”he told the Pacific Media Network.

Since planes can land again, many nations have offered to help. Japan has announced the dispatch of two C-130 aircraft. Other countries, including China and France, have also announced their assistance.

Internet out of order for a month

This eruption caused a huge pressure wave that swept across the planet, traveling at a supersonic speed of around 1,231 kilometers per hour, according to New Zealand’s National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research.

It will take at least four weeks for the Internet connection to be restored by the American cable company SubCom. The latter explained that the cable seems to be cut in two places: a first 37 kilometers offshore and a second near the volcano, which makes repairs difficult. Telephone communications were being restored on Wednesday.

Read also Article reserved for our subscribers The Tonga islands still cut off from the world, three days after the volcanic eruption

The Red Cross reached its team in Tonga by satellite phone on Wednesday for the first time since the disaster. The organization sent an emergency team to the badly affected islands of Mango, Fonoifua and Namuka. The village on Mango Island, where an emergency beacon was triggered earlier this week, was completely destroyed. In several others, only a few houses are still standing.

The World with AFP

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