Global aid effort underway for Tonga’s recovery from the Hunga tsunami

HMNZS Aotearoa bound for Tonga
HMNZS Aotearoa departing Devonport Naval Base in Auckland Harbour last week en route for Tonga - the Navy ship is now there as part of the tsunami relief effort. Image: RNZ/NZ Defence Force

By Lydia Lewis, RNZ Pacific journalist

A global aid effort is underway for Tonga with vessels en route to the Pacific kingdom from Australia, the United Kingdom, Japan and the US as well as New Zealand.

NZ Defence Force Maritime Component Commander Commodore Garin Golding told RNZ Pacific nearby Fiji was also assisting in the relief efforts.

“Fiji is assisting Tonga, they are providing land forces which are going to be embarked on the Adelaide,” he said.

Three New Zealand Navy vessels have departed already and a second C-130 Hercules dropped aid off yesterday following the devastating undersea eruption of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano and tsunami on January 15.

The HMNZS Canterbury set sail for Tonga on Friday night, the latest to assist with the aid effort.

The ship has two NH90 helicopters, personnel and supplies onboard.

“On board the HMNZS Canterbury is water, milk powder and tarpaulins, but due to her size they have also embarked vehicles and forklifts which are needed to help distribute aid around the airport and port,” Commodore Golding said.

Engineer task force embarked
“We have also embarked an engineer task force and they can help purify water.”

Defence Force personnel board the HMNZS Canterbury.
Defence Force personnel board the HMNZS Canterbury. Image: RNZ Pacific/NZ Defence Force

The HMNZS Wellington and Aotearoa are already in Tonga.

Commodore Golding said the team onboard the Aotearoa had successfully offloaded five containers of stores and spent Saturday offloading bulk water supplies to be distributed across the island.

“They will be doing that today right through to early next week,” Golding said.

“The HMNZS Wellington sailed overnight [Friday], they received another survey task to the island ‘Eua which is the south east of Tongatapu, they will spend the whole day using their hydrographic and diving personnel just to verify that it is safe for shipping to go in and out.”

Wellington was set to return to Nuku’alofa to continue the survey task, with Aotearoa to stay alongside to continue to offload water supplies.

Supplies are loaded on board the HMNZS Canterbury
Supplies are loaded on board the HMNZS Canterbury for Tonga’s relief effort. Image: RNZ Pacific/NZ Defence Force

Australian efforts
The Royal Australian Navy is supporting the effort too, while HMNZS Adelaide is on its way.

“My understanding is, in addition to the three ships we will have, [the] Adelaide from Australia, the [Royal Navy ship HMS] Spey from the UK, and the US already has the Sampson [there] and a coast guard vessel is on its way down. I understand a Japanese vessel is on route. I have no information with respects to China,” Commodore Golding said.

The Tongan government has requested covid-19 measures be observed during the effort and Golding said that was a major focus of the team.

“We will be receiving tasks from the Tongan government and we will be responsive to whatever these tasks are.”

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

Tagata Pasifika on the latest aid efforts for Tonga. Video: Tagata Pasifika

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