Drinking water remains the priority for residents of Tonga, a week after an underwater volcanic eruption followed by a tsunami devastated the isolated South Pacific island nation.
Tongans lined up on Saturday morning to access cash for the first time since the disaster, while the government said emergency response teams had already distributed 60,000 liters of water to residents, according to Reuters.
“Tongans have demonstrated their resilience in the face of this calamity and will recover,” said Faka’iloatonga Taumoefolau, who helps lead the country’s emergency response efforts.
Help arrived on Friday in the form of a New Zealand Navy vessel capable of desalinating up to 70,000 liters of water a day. The vessel anchored in Tonga’s main port where it began turning seawater into freshwater.
More help is on the way in the form of naval assets from Australia, Britain and New Zealand, while flights carrying humanitarian aid from Japan and New Zealand were due to land on Saturday . Two relief flights from Australia arrived on Friday evening.
Air support has been delayed because the runway at Tonga’s main airport was covered in ash from last Saturday’s eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai submarine volcano.
About 84% of the country’s 107,000 people have been affected by the ashfall or tsunami, according to Tonga’s Prime Minister’s Office, while inter-island communications in the archipelago remain an “acute challenge”, according to the report.
The official death toll in Tonga stands at three. Needy residents of Nomuka Island are forced to visit a newly built field hospital after the local health center was swept away by the tsunami, which sent waves over 40ft high crashing into the Earth.