New Zealand High Commission Tonga Volcanic Eruption and Tsunami: Update Eight 24/1/2022

Volcanic Eruption and Tsunami: Update Eight 24/1/2022

  • Prime Minister Ardern spoke to her Tongan counterpart Prime Minister Hon Siaosi Sovaleni Thursday evening while Foreign Affairs Minister Mahuta also called her counterpart Minister Hon Fekitamoeloa 'Utoikamanu on Friday to discuss how the countries could work together on the relief effort.
  • Phone connections for Digicel customers continue to improve but can still be difficult at times. People are asked to be patient and call back if they cannot get through.
  • Water testing has shown it is safe for drinking on Tongatapu. Some communities on Tongatapu have however lost access to drinking water. Drinking water is being delivered to these communities and the outer islands.
  • Latest weather forecast is that no tropical cyclones are expected in the coming week.
  • The death toll remains at three; two Tongan nationals and a British national.
  • US cable company SubCom advises it will take several weeks for Tonga’s cable connection to be repaired.
  • While the potential for future eruptions remains, they are unlikely to be as large as the January 15 eruption

Tonga Government Response

The Tonga Government is leading response efforts on the ground. Clean-up and damage assessments are ongoing. Relief supplies are being distributed by Tongan authorities.

New Zealand Government Response

  • A second C-130 Hercules arrived in Tonga on Saturday morning carrying humanitarian and disaster relief stores to Tongatapu, including non-perishable food, water testing kits, first aid kits, masks and other safety equipment. These items were delivered contactlessly in line with the Tongan Government’s Covid-19 protocols.
  • We are preparing for a third C-130 flight this week. To date all deliveries have been contactless in line with agreed COVID-19 protocols.
  • HMNZS Wellington arrived in Tonga on Thursday. Hydrographers have now surveyed the Nuku’alofa and ‘Eua ports and can confirm they are open and clear of hazards.
  • HMNZS Aotearoa arrived in Tonga on Friday carrying humanitarian and disaster relief stores. It is currently offloading the 250,000L of drinking water on board.
  • HMNZS Canterbury is due to arrive in Tonga later this week. It is carrying further relief supplies and equipment as requested by the Tongan Government.
  • Other deployments are possible subject to Tongan Government requests and permissions.

Keeping Tonga free from COVID-19

  • The COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose challenges to New Zealand’s ability to provide humanitarian assistance in the Pacific.
  • As Tonga faces a significant rebuild, including to parts of its health system and critical infrastructure, the New Zealand Government and partners are following strict protocols, to keep Tonga free of COVID-19.
  • All New Zealand Defence Force personnel and staff handling relief supplies, both in New Zealand and on the journey to Tonga, are adhering to a number of protocols, including:
    • Being fully vaccinated
    • Practising good hand hygiene and wearing PPE at all times when handling humanitarian supplies, while at the same time applying procedures that minimise the handling of supplies, and;
    • Pre-departure testing for all deployed personnel
  • Contactless delivery in Tonga means deployed personnel must keep at least 2m distance from the local population at all times, maintain good mask-wearing, hand-hygiene and PPE practises and keep thorough records of locations visited

New Zealanders in Tonga

  • All New Zealanders in Tonga are advised to register their details on link).
  • Communications links with Tonga continue to be disrupted so New Zealanders may have difficulties contacting their whānau in Tonga at this time.
  • New Zealanders in Tonga should follow the advice of the local authorities, including any tsunami evacuation orders.
  • If you have lost contact with a New Zealand citizen in Tonga please email cons@mfat.govt.nzwith your details and the details of the New Zealand citizen in Tonga. If you have serious concerns for the safety of a New Zealand citizen or you need urgent consular assistance in Tonga please contact the New Zealand Consular Emergency line on +64 99 20 20 20.
  • If you are concerned or have lost contact with Tongan citizens who are not New Zealand Citizens, NZ Red Cross has activated their Restoring Family Links(external link) system for Tonga - which may help to connect you with loved ones. We encourage you to visit this website and enter your family members’ details.
  • You may have read in the news that the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) Central Tracing Agency systems, based in Switzerland, has been hacked. The New Zealand Red Cross Restoring Family Links service for Tonga has not been affected by this and the data held by the New Zealand Red Cross should be considered secure.