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First aid shipments leave for Tonga, amid fears aid workers could bring ‘tsunami of Covid’ | Tonga volcano

Australia and New Zealand have began to dispatch aid to Tonga, amid fears that reduction workers could bring a “tsunami of Covid” instances to the Pacific Island nation that has up to now recorded only one case of the virus.

New Zealand has dispatched two naval vessels with reduction provides onboard. Defence minister Peeni Henare mentioned they had been anticipated to reach in 4 days, although could arrive as quickly as Friday if the climate holds.

“Clearly [their number one task] will probably be to look in direction of how they’ll provide water. That’s been their primary precedence,” he mentioned.

A New Zealand authorities replace on Wednesday afternoon confirmed that no additional deaths had been reported because the Tongan authorities’s announcement of three confirmed deaths – one Tongan lady, one Tongan man, and one British lady – on Tuesday evening.

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Sophie Ford, worldwide response coordinator for the Australian Pink Cross, mentioned the organisation was amongst a coalition of aid teams sending essential provides for the reduction effort, with a ship anticipated to leave from Australia on Wednesday.

The HMAS Adelaide left Sydney for Brisbane on Tuesday and was as a consequence of depart for Tonga on Wednesday. Ford mentioned the provides embrace materials to assist present momentary shelter and clear consuming water which can have been contaminated by the ash cloud.

Tonga Pink Cross is main the native response and has ready provides stockpiled to assist 1,200 households, however Ford mentioned these will must be replenished within the coming days and weeks to maintain the hassle.

Nevertheless, Ford mentioned aid teams had been conscious of Covid-19 restrictions that require folks coming into the nation to isolate for as much as three weeks, and items to be quarantined for days.

“We’re actually aware that our response doesn’t bring any extra issues,” Ford mentioned.

A senior Tongan diplomat in Canberra, Curtis Tuihalangingie, advised the ABC that there have been considerations of “a tsunami of Covid hitting Tonga” as humanitarian reduction got here to the nation.

Tonga has just one recorded case of Covid-19 all through the pandemic and has maintained a strict quarantine management regime out of warning.

Ford mentioned Pink Cross Australia has technical groups that may work remotely to assist the native Tongan Pink Cross response on the bottom.

“Many of these folks have performed deployments earlier than in order that they have relationships with the prevailing groups on the bottom,” Ford mentioned. “Our job as internationals, I consider, is to again up these native responses: make certain we hearken to what the folks of Tonga say they want, after which give them it.”

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison mentioned on Wednesday afternoon he had not but managed to talk to Tonga’s prime minister to obtain a proper request for help, saying a telecommunications breakdown and ash clouds have made for a “very troublesome surroundings to be working in”.

“Any time a Pacific nation has referred to as on us for assist, we’ve got all the time mentioned ‘sure’, and so, you realize, I’ll be speaking to the prime minister, I hope, later right now, communications permitting, and we’ll run by means of no matter else they could want,” Morrison mentioned.

Although there have been preliminary fears the eruption and ensuing tsunami might have broken Tonga’s primary airport, these proved unfounded with groups of volunteers working to clear the runway.

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A view from a NZ defence force aircraft of an area covered in volcanic ash in Tonga
A view from a NZ defence pressure plane of an space lined in volcanic ash in Tonga {Photograph}: /NEW ZEALAND DEFENCE FORCE/AFP/Getty Photos

An replace from the New Zealand authorities on mentioned this work was anticipated to complete on Wednesday, with energy having been restored, clean-up efforts underneath approach and harm assessments going down.

Henare mentioned a Hercules is on standby prepared for when the runway at Tonga’s primary airport is cleared of ash and declared secure.

A global cell phone community supplier has arrange a brief system on Tongatapu, Tonga’s primary island, utilizing the College of South Pacific’s satellite tv for pc dish.

It’s anticipated the undersea cable will take 4 weeks to be repaired, leaving the nations telecommunications system working at 10% of it normal capability.

An announcement launched late on Tuesday evening from the workplace of prime minister Siaosi Sovaleni confirmed the deaths of the three folks and the destruction of each residence on Mango Island, residence to 50 folks. Solely two homes remained on the neighbouring island of Fonoifua.

It described the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha‘apai undersea volcano, 40 miles (65km) north of Tonga’s capital, as an “unprecedented catastrophe” that resulted in 15m waves.

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