Australia Sends Aid to Tsunami-Ravaged Tonga

By Steve Milne
Steve Milne
Steve Milne
Writer
Steve is an Australian reporter based in Sydney covering sport, the arts, and politics. He is an experienced English teacher, qualified nutritionist, sports enthusiast, and amateur musician. Contact him at steve.milne@epochtimes.com.au.
January 19, 2022 Updated: January 19, 2022

Australia is deploying aircraft and a naval vessel to bring much needed humanitarian and disaster-relief aid to Tonga after a tsunami lashed the islands on Saturday.

HMAS Adelaide will feature in the relief effort, bringing engineering and medical personnel and equipment, as well as helicopters to assist with logistics and distribution of humanitarian aid, Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne told 2GB on Tuesday.

This comes after an undersea volcanic eruption, which occurred approximately 65km (40 miles) north of the capital, Nuku’alofa, triggered a tsunami that inundated much of the island nation, causing widespread damage and three confirmed deaths.

According to a United Nations report on Tuesday, on the main island of Tongatapu, around 100 houses have suffered damage, with 50 completely destroyed.

Also of concern are the Mango and Fonoi islands, where surveillance flights have shown significant damage to buildings, and on one island, in particular, Nomuka, 41 of the 104 visible structures have been damaged, and all are covered in ash.

The volcano has also blanketed the islands in ash, which may render water supplies undrinkable, so it will be a focus for Australia’s humanitarian aid workers.

“We will ensure that we have water purification supplies provided in our humanitarian assistance,” she said.

She also said that water could be flown in, but not in huge quantities, so establishing water purification ability on the ground is the priority. This will include establishing desalination equipment to purify seawater.

Another issue is communication, as a major communication cable was severed during the eruption, rendering phone and internet services unreliable.

It may take several weeks to repair the cable. Meanwhile, Payne said that Australia is assisting in setting up satellite communication in Tonga, but it’s proving difficult due to lingering ash clouds.

Humanitarian aid workers will also have to adhere to strict COVID-19 protocols as Tonga has remained virtually COVID-19-free since the start of the pandemic, and there are concerns the influx of humanitarian aid personnel could carry the virus to the island nation.

Payne said that Tonga has a very strict and consistent approach to letting outsiders enter Tonga, and the Australia Government will be working closely with their counterparts there to keep the island nation COVID-19-free.

“We’ve had support in Fiji, for example, we’ve had support in Papua New Guinea, in Vanuatu post-cyclone as well,” she said.

“We’ve done that successfully, and I touch wood every day because we know how hard COVID is to manage, but successfully in terms of ensuring any defence personnel, any medical assistance personnel, are able to engage in these countries and support their COVID-free status where that’s the case.”

Steve Milne
Steve is an Australian reporter based in Sydney covering sport, the arts, and politics. He is an experienced English teacher, qualified nutritionist, sports enthusiast, and amateur musician. Contact him at steve.milne@epochtimes.com.au.