'Rebuilding amid the ashes': More aid arrives in Tonga as relief efforts ramp up

Red Cross and volunteers are stepping up deliveries of water and setting up shelters across Tonga's many islands days after a volcanic eruption and tsunami.

This photo taken on January 24, 2022 shows Mango Island evacuees posing as they receive clothing donations at the Free Wesleyan Church hall in Longolongo in Tonga's capital Nukualofa following the January 15 eruption of the nearby Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haapai

Evacuees from Mango Island who received clothing donations at a church hall in Longolongo in Tonga's capital Nukualofa on 24 January, 2022. Source: Getty Images/AFP

Humanitarian aid to Tonga is ramping up after the airport was cleared of ash, making it safe for planes to land, the Red Cross says, days after a volcanic eruption and tsunami devastated the South Pacific archipelago.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said with the extra supplies, its staff and volunteers are stepping up deliveries of drinking water and setting up shelters across the country's many islands.

"This disaster has shaken the people of Tonga like nothing we have seen in our lifetime," Sione Taumoefolau, secretary general of Tonga Red Cross, said in a statement on Wednesday.

"The tsunami has wiped out homes and villages, but we are already rebuilding amid the ashes."

The US Agency for International Development (USAID), said the United States is providing an additional $US2.5 million ($A3.5 million) in humanitarian assistance and the guided missile destroyer USS Sampson, part of a multinational effort, arrived this week to support the efforts in Tonga.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 stricken HMAS Adelaide has offloaded humanitarian and medical aid.

The Tongan government allowed the ship, aboard which 23 infections were earlier confirmed, to dock and offload supplies on Wednesday.

"The ship is undertaking an entirely contactless delivery of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief supplies," a statement from Australia's foreign affairs, defence and international development ministers said.

The Australian government has so far committed $3 million towards Tonga's recovery.

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The United Nations, Red Cross and other relief agencies on the ground in Tonga have warned that a COVID-19 outbreak in the island would be catastrophic.

"There is an urgent need for people to have access to safe water sources in the days and weeks to come," Mr Taumoefolau said.

"Ash has settled in water tanks, requiring time to settle and careful treatment before use. It has also smothered much of the country, including houses and crops."

The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano eruption triggered a tsunami that destroyed villages and resorts and knocked out communications for the nation of about 105,000 people.

Three people have been reported killed.

2 min read
Published 26 January 2022 at 4:21pm
Source: AAP, SBS