CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Three flights from Australia carrying food, water, medical supplies and telecommunications equipment landed in Tonga on Saturday as the Pacific nation continues to grapple with the aftermath of an underwater volcano eruption and tsunami.
Planes from other nations, including New Zealand and Japan, have also brought much-needed aid to the people of Tonga, said Zed Seselja, Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific.
The first such aid arrived on Thursday after the airport’s main runway was cleared of ash spewed by the volcano’s eruption a week ago. The eruption also triggered a Pacific tsunami that smashed boats in New Zealand and caused an oil spill in Peru.
“Obviously it is a very, very difficult time for the people of Tonga. The feedback on the ground that I got again today is that a lot of people have been displaced,” Seselja told reporters in Canberra.
The cleanup went smoothly as the Tongan government and military worked together, Seselja said.
Ships from the US and UK are underway, he said. Also deployed was the HMAS Adelaide, an Australian Navy ship carrying helicopters, engineers and a 40-bed hospital. The ship can generate electricity and purify water.
Also on Saturday, the Japanese government said a Self-Defense Forces C-130 plane had arrived in Tonga with 3 tons of drinking water. This was followed by a Japanese military flight that arrived on Friday. Another plane carrying volcanic ash disposal equipment is scheduled to depart on Sunday, the Defense Ministry said.
Seselja said the good news is that the death toll is relatively limited, with three deaths confirmed so far.
Three of Tonga’s smaller islands were severely damaged by tsunami waves. The majority of Tongans live on the main island of Tongatapu, where about 50 houses were destroyed.