Australia and New Zealand officials announced on Thursday that first aid flights wereon their way to Tonga.
The flights follow the Saturday eruption of the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai underwater volcano. The eruption dispersed a thick layer of ash across the island and caused a tsunami that was felt across the Pacific.
The underwater cable providing internet and telecoms connectivity was severed in the disaster. It may take weeks for the cable to be repaired. For now, satellite phones are the only means of communication.
What aircraft has departed for Tonga?
Officials in Australia and New Zealand said that two military transporters should arrive within hours at Tonga’s airport, after the airport’s runway had been cleared of ash, making it safe to land.
“A C17 Globemaster left from Amberley Airport Base around 7 a.m. today (Wednesday, 2000 GMT/UTC),” an Australian defense official told AFP. A second Australian aid flight was set to depart later on Thursday.
The flights will carry humanitarian supplies and telecommunications equipment.
The Australian High Commission in Tonga said that Australia had provided 1 million Australian dollars to the recovery effort.
New Zealand said that a C-130 Hercules aircraft had departed for Tonga carrying aid supplies.
The Australian military relief ship the HMAS Adelaide is also standing by in Brisbane and is expected to depart for Tonga on Friday.
The ship will carry “water purification equipment and additional humanitarian supplies,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
Red Cross makes contact with local team after days in dark
Katie Greenwood, Pacific head of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Society, told DW that “there’s mixed news coming out of Tonga.”
“It is very good news we have been able to finally make contact with our team,” Greenwood said. She added that they hadn’t been in contact since Saturday when the eruption took place.
“There’s also some sad news […] that has come out of some reconnaissance trips that have gone out to some of those smaller, low-lying atolls,” Greenwood told DW.
Greenwood said that the reconnaissance trips had found that “most of the structures on those islands have been completely wiped out and destroyed.”
“The death toll did rise slightly yesterday as well,” to three, she added.
sdi/msh (AFP, Reuters)
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