Concern grows over psychological trauma amid Tonga’s recovery

Distributing water to ‘Eueiki
Distributing water to ‘Eueiki as part of the relief effort for Tonga after the Hunga Tonga volcano eruption and tsunami. Image: The Pacific Newsroom video screenshot APR

RNZ Pacific

As Tonga’s recovery from the recent volcanic eruption and tsunami ramps up there is growing concern for the psychological and emotional wellbeing of survivors.

According to the government, 84 percent of the population has been impacted, with assessments of the widespread destruction still being conducted.

Two Tongans and a British national were killed during the disaster.

RNZ Pacific’s Tonga correspondent Kalafi Moala said that while the recovery was building up steam a lot of people were still visibly shaken.

“For example near here, where there were homes in the waterfront that were destroyed, when you go over to inspect the place you see people that are just staring,” he said.

“With looks in their faces not only of disappointment, but it is a look of hurt,” he added.

French aid
A French Navy ship is to take relief supplies to Tonga following the volcanic eruption and tsunami.

The Red Cross in Noumea has readied 21 pallets which the patrol boat La Glorieuse will deliver to Nuku’alofa.

The 10 tonnes of goods include tents for about 100 families, hygiene kits, solar-powered lights as well as masks.

Ash and debris covering houses and a road in Nuku'alofa, Tonga.
Ash and debris covering houses and a road in Nuku’alofa, Tonga. Image: RNZ Pacific/Consulate of the Kingdom of Tonga

A coordinator, Vincent Lepley, has told the local broadcaster that as Tonga was covid-19 free, no staff would be sent.

He said the delivery would be made within the French partnership with New Zealand and Australia as well as Tonga’s Red Cross.

Help from Fiji on the way

The first contingent of 51 Fiji soldiers are still awaiting approval from the Tongan government to assist New Zealand and Australia in their relief efforts in the kingdom.

The Fijians arrived in Brisbane last Saturday to join Australia’s Defence Force deployment to Tonga.

Fiji army commander Major-General Ro Jone Kalouniwai said the group consisted of engineers, medics and other specialists.

He said they would carry out rehabilitation and further assessments in Tonga.

The Fiji military said the soldiers had completed covid-19 tests and isolation requirements before heading to Australia.

“Looking at the damage and the things that happened in Tonga so far, we are going engineer heavy so we taking a lot of plant operators, we are looking at construction workers, civil engineers and also medical staff. The rest are all part of the manpower that can assist these specialists’ engineers in the work they are doing,” he said.

Volunteers needed
Twelve shipping containers bound for Tonga have been fully packed with food and water by Aotearoa Tonga Relief Committee volunteers.

Thirteen additional containers are being sent to Auckland’s Mount Smart Stadium today.

The drop off points for the public remain closed as the hundreds of drums already onsite need loading.

Committee co-chair Jenny Salesa said volunteers worked until 10pm last night.

But she said more people power was needed for the final push today, with packers expected to work until midnight.

 Alt text: The Aotearoa Tonga Relief Committee is coordinating shipping containers at Auckland's Mt Smart Stadium to be filled with donations, including emergency supplies from family in New Zealand to relatives in Tonga.
The Aotearoa Tonga Relief Committee is coordinating shipping containers at Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium to be filled with donations for Tonga. Image: Lydia Lewis/RNZ Pacific

All volunteers must be fully vaccinated.

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

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