The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has provided Tongan communities with more than half a million litres of fresh water and continues to transport much-needed aid to Tonga with a fourth Hercules flight scheduled tomorrow.
The NZDF has deployed ships, aircraft and personnel – including Army engineers – to assist with the response following the eruption and tsunami in Tonga earlier this month.
Group Captain Nick Olney, who is in command of the NZDF operation in Tonga, says NZDF activities are being carried out in line with Tonga’s Covid-19 protocols, with deliveries of relief supplies being completed without making physical contact with Tongan communities.
“We’re here and ready to help with Tonga’s response, as directed by Tongan authorities. We have carried out much-needed deliveries of aid and have produced water for Tongan communities. Our work here is being completed in line with Tonga’s Covid-19 protocols which is a critical outcome for both ourselves and the people of Tonga.’’
Royal New Zealand Navy ship HMNZS Canterbury is in Nuku’alofa and has taken over water production from HMNZS Aotearoa which left Tonga after assisting relief efforts for about a week. Aotearoa is now preparing for a re-supply mission to Antarctica.
HMNZS Canterbury continued water production over the weekend. Fresh water generated by the Navy ships now exceeds 500,000 litres. Desalinated water has been fed from the ships into tankers based on the wharf at Nuku’alofa.
Over the weekend, HMNZS Canterbury also offloaded relief supplies including milk powder, tarpaulins, ladders, water pumps and personal protective equipment in a contactless delivery onto the wharf at Nuku’alofa. The supplies remain quarantined on shore for 72 hours before being picked up for distribution by Tongan authorities.
Communications links to the badly hit Ha’apai Island group have been affected and crew on the Royal New Zealand Air Force NH90 helicopter on board Canterbury have flown communications engineers, wearing PPE, to the remote, steep and uninhabited Kao Island. Consistent cloudover the island has so far meant the helicopter has been unable to fly to the summit where the main communications equipment is located, but further attempts will be made during breaks in the cloud cover.
HMNZS Wellington is also back in Nuku’alofa after transiting to Niuatoputapu, to the north, where specialist Navy hydrography and dive teams checked shipping channels and harbour entrances, and also located a navigational marker that had moved in the natural disaster.
RNZAF Hercules aircraft have been delivering essential supplies to Fua’amotu International Airport. Tomorrow, the fourth Hercules flight is scheduled to depart for Tonga, taking medical supplies including PPE, blankets, tarpaulins, water bladders, and mosquito nets.
View the latest updates on the NZDF Tonga Response page here.