18 Nov 2006

Death toll in Tonga reaches eight, New Zealand and Australia send security reinforcements

1:09 pm on 18 November 2006

The death toll from the riots in Tonga is now eight, with two more bodies found in the supermarket belonging to the prime minister, Dr Feleti Sevele, which was one of the first buildings razed in the rampage.

Earlier six bodies, believed to be those of looters, were uncovered in the rubble of the Shoreline Power company.

It is believed that the six were trapped after an LPG tank exploded during the arson.

Meanwhile, a government media release says the Privy Council has extended the emergency powers available to the Police Force and Tonga Defence Services to re-establish order in the capital

In addition to meeting with the King, Cabinet Ministers were in virtually continuous session all day yesterday, inspecting damage, receiving briefings from officials, meeting with 10 of Tonga's Church Leaders, and liaising with foreign diplomatic missions.

A number of people have been arrested and are being held pending further investigations into the riot.

And New Zealand and Australia have depatched to guard Tonga's international airport.

The New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark, says the 60 defence force personnel will be providing security so the airport can continue operating.

Airlines have refused to land there because of security fears.

The joint New Zealand-Australian force of 110 troops and 40 police was announced early this morning by the two Prime Ministers, who are at the Apec summit in Vietnam.

Miss Clark says Tonga's army and police are too stretched to provide security for the airport