NZ to provide further help for tsunami-hit Tonga

Wellington, Jan 21 (IANS) New Zealand is giving an additional NZ$2 million ($1.35 million) in humanitarian funding for Tonga as the island nation recovers from last week’s massive volcanic eruptions and tsunami, senior officials said on Friday.

This brings New Zealand’s contribution to the Tonga disaster relief to NZ$3 million, Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said in a statement.

“This support will enable more crucial supplies, such as drinking water, food supplies, as well as engineering equipment and tools to clear debris, to be sent to Tonga in the coming days and weeks,” Mahuta said.

The funding is additional to the NZ$1 million that New Zealand has already allocated as humanitarian aid, reports Xinhua news agency.

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Peeni Henare announced the HMNZS Canterbury would leave Devonport for Tonga overnight as the third New Zealand navy vessel contributed to the disaster relief.

The HMNZS Canterbury will have on board additional stores such as tarpaulins, water containers, milk powder, as well as engineering equipment to clear debris and two NH-90 helicopters, said Henare.

Deliveries will be contactless in accordance with Tonga’s Covid-19 protocols and those involved in the relief efforts undergo testing before departure, and while on deployment, he said.

Mahuta said NZ$1.5 million of the additional NZ$2 million would go towards deploying more relief supplies on upcoming C-130 relief flights, as well as water generation capability and clean-up equipment.

“This money will also fund relief activity undertaken by local authorities and humanitarian organisations, and other requests from the Tongan government as required,” said the Foreign Minister.

The remaining NZ$500,000 will go towards a New Zealand Disaster Response Partnership round for NGOs working with local partners to support Tonga’s response efforts, she said.

A Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 Hercules carrying relief supplies landed in Tonga on Thursday and more flights are scheduled.

New Zealand’s navy ship HMNZS Wellington also arrived in Tonga and hydrographers were immediately deployed to survey approaches to Nuku’alofa.

The second ship HMNZS Aotearoa arrived and offloaded humanitarian stores on Friday. Navy divers will also be checking on the integrity of the wharf infrastructure.

Tsunami waves hit Tonga on January 15 following a series of violent volcanic eruptions from underwater Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano, 65 km north of the country’s main island Tongatapu.

The tsunami had a significant impact on part of the foreshore of Tonga, with boats and large boulders washed ashore and shops along the coast damaged.

–IANS

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