| 28 September 2022, Wednesday |

Tonga: International aid arrival hampered by COVID

The South Pacific island nation, currently COVID-free, has a strict border control policy, the matter that forced an Australian aid flight bound for Tonga was forced to return After a COVID-19 case was detected onboard, Officials said on Friday.

The aid supplies were moved to another flight that took off on Friday, according to an Australian defense spokesperson.

The first shipment of relief supplies from Australia and New Zealand began arriving in Tonga on Thursday. To keep COVID-19 at bay, Tonga currently requires contactless delivery of aid.

Saturday’s eruption of the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai underwater volcano covered Tonga in a thick layer of ash and unleashed a tsunami that damaged buildings and resorts along the coastline. At least 3 people were killed.
Telephone communication was restored Wednesday, however, damage to the island’s sole undersea internet cable will likely take a month or more to repair.

Tongans have worked for days to clear the island’s airport runway of ash to allow aid flights access.

Officials have said securing clean drinking water is a priority, as ash has contaminated Tonga’s drinking water supply, according to the World Health Organization.

A vessel carrying aid from New Zealand was expected also to arrive in Tonga on Friday. The vessel is carrying 250,000 liters of water and has the capacity to produce 70,000 liters per day with a desalination device. Ash has contaminated Tonga’s water supply, according to the World Health Organization.

An Australian aid vessel is expected to reach Tonga next week. Other aid supplies include emergency shelter, communication equipment and power generators.
United Nations spokesperson Stephane Dujarric has said assessment teams have reached most parts of the country, including remote and isolated islands.

“We remain seriously concerned about access to safe water for 50,000 people throughout the country. Water quality testing continues, and most people are relying on bottled water,” he added.

While Australia has donated $1 million for immediate humanitarian supplies, Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Friday that cash donations will need to be followed by further support for rebuilding.

“The impact of this volcanic eruption and the subsequent tsunami and the damage the inundation is causing will be an ongoing challenge for Tonga, particularly in relation to infrastructure,” she said.

source: Taiwannews