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New Zealand High Commission Tonga Volcanic Eruption and Tsunami: Update Nine 26/1/2022

Govt. New Zealand
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Prime Minister Ardern spoke to her Tongan counterpart Prime Minister Hon Siaosi Sovaleni Thursday evening while Foreign Affairs Minister Mahuta also called her counterpart Minister Hon Fekitamoeloa 'Utoikamanu on Friday to discuss how the countries could work together on the relief effort.

Phone connections for Digicel customers continue to improve but can still be difficult at times. People are asked to be patient and call back if they cannot get through.

Water testing has shown it is safe for drinking on Tongatapu. Some communities on Tongatapu have however lost access to drinking water. Drinking water is being delivered to these communities and the outer islands.

Latest weather forecast is that no tropical cyclones are expected in the coming week.

The death toll remains at three; two Tongan nationals and a British national.

US cable company SubCom advises it will take several weeks for Tonga’s cable connection to be repaired.

While the potential for future eruptions remains, they are unlikely to be as large as the January 15 eruption

Tonga Government Response

The Tonga Government is leading response efforts on the ground. Clean-up and damage assessments are ongoing. Relief supplies are being distributed by Tongan authorities.

New Zealand Government Response

A second C-130 Hercules arrived in Tonga on Saturday morning carrying humanitarian and disaster relief stores to Tongatapu, including non-perishable food, water testing kits, first aid kits, masks and other safety equipment. These items were delivered contactlessly in line with the Tongan Government’s Covid-19 protocols.

We are preparing for a third C-130 flight this week. To date all deliveries have been contactless in line with agreed COVID-19 protocols.

HMNZS Wellington arrived in Tonga on Thursday. Hydrographers have now surveyed the Nuku’alofa and ‘Eua ports and can confirm they are open and clear of hazards.

HMNZS Aotearoa arrived in Tonga on Friday carrying humanitarian and disaster relief stores, including 250,000L of water. So far, 415,000 litres of water has been provided in total.

HMNZS Canterbury is due to arrive in Tonga on Wednesday evening. It is carrying further relief supplies and equipment as requested by the Tongan Government.

Other deployments are possible subject to Tongan Government requests and permissions.

Keeping Tonga free from COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose challenges to New Zealand’s ability to provide humanitarian assistance in the Pacific.

As Tonga faces a significant rebuild, including to parts of its health system and critical infrastructure, the New Zealand Government and partners are following strict protocols, to keep Tonga free of COVID-19.

All New Zealand Defence Force personnel and staff handling relief supplies, both in New Zealand and on the journey to Tonga, are adhering to a number of protocols, including:

Being fully vaccinated Practising good hand hygiene and wearing PPE at all times when handling humanitarian supplies, while at the same time applying procedures that minimise the handling of supplies, and;

Pre-departure testing for all deployed personnel Contactless delivery in Tonga means deployed personnel must keep at least 2m distance from the local population at all times, maintain good mask-wearing, hand-hygiene and PPE practises and keep thorough records of locations visited