17 Jan 2022

Tonga eruption: Power restored in Nuku'alofa as New Zealand sends air support

2:15 pm on 17 January 2022

Power has been restored in large parts of Nuku'alofa, while two New Zealand planes are heading to Tonga to provide support after Saturday's eruption, Defence Minister Peeni Henare says.

Henare and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke to media at a vaccination clinic this afternoon, with online booster shot bookings and paediatric vaccines kicking off today.

It comes after Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haʻapai volcano erupted on Saturday, one of the largest eruptions in the past 30 years, causing tsunami which led to further damage

New Zealand has offered support to Tongan authorities, and Ardern said two NZ Defence Force aircraft were being sent - a P3K Orion which was already on its way, and a C-130 Hercules which was being prepared for a take-off later today.

Ardern said the Orion's arrival was imminent, and it would be undertaking an aerial assessment - of the outer islands in particular - with that information being provided to the Tongan authorities.

The C-130 meanwhile would perform naval drops, with planning being done to enable that regardless of the status of the airport.

"I understand that on the ground ... Tonga has also now by sea dispatched to the outer islands."

She said the C-130 was expected to fly today regardless, and would be able to meet immediate supply needs.

Henare said it was being ensured that the C-130 had the necessities on board. He said the aerial assessment being done by the Orion would help with that.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says it's a matter of if, not when Omicron is in the community.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says it's a matter of if, not when Omicron is in the community. Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

The response must be directed to where it is needed the most, he said.

He said power had been restored d in large parts of Nuku'alofa, but there was urgent need for other necessities like water.

Ardern said the navy was able to deploy very quickly, and communication had been difficult but the flights today along with communication with officials on the ground would help establish the needs of those in Tonga.

One of the things that was known was water was needed.

She cautioned that while there had been reports that some islands have seen no casualties, it was still early days.

It was thought the connectivity problems with the underwater cable stemmed from power outages, she said.

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