A week after an underwater volcano erupted near the island nation of Tonga in the Pacific, local residents are trying to get back to normal.
The distribution of drinking water is the priority, according to the Tongan government. But when natural disaster strikes and completely disrupts the workings of modern society, many human basics — like access to money in banks — become a high priority, as well.
The local government said that rescue workers distributed over 60,000 liters of water to residents in the previous days. New Zealand also sent a naval ship, capable of desalinating more than 70,000 liters per day, to Tonga for aid. The ship has already begun drawing water from Tonga’s harbor.
Many local residents who lived on the country’s less populated islands lost their homes in the tsunami and now find themselves on the main island needing a lot of support. Even if they didn’t lose their houses, these residents likely lost access to food, drinkable water, and internet. Therefore, the main island of Tongatapu is experiencing unprecedented logistical issues and long lines for basic human necessities.
Faka’iloatonga Taumoefolau, the coordinator for the project to rebuild Tonga’s parliament, said the restoration of limited banking was important. It allowed for people to be able to buy essential goods, and it began forming a semblance of economy again.
“Tongans have demonstrated their resilience in this calamity and will get back on their feet,” he said.
International Aid Efforts Intensify as Tongans Begin Recovery
Flights and naval deliveries of aid continue to pour in from Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. Now that the local military lifted the thick layer of volcanic ash from the Tongan airfields, aid planes can land without difficulty. The ash caused a significant challenge during the early days of clean-up as it made surfaces too treacherous (and blind) for much automobile usage.
Food distribution and field hospital first aid efforts have improved, as well. Sione Hufanga, the resident United Nations specialist on the ground in Tonga, told Reuters that the agency is staying busy as more people arrive at shelters. Displaced citizens mostly seek food and other supplies, he said.
“Almost all crops in the country have been badly affected. Farmers have lost their homes and livelihood,” he said from Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa. “The country will be heavily relying on aid food for some time.”
Residents also buried their deceased this week. A Tongan man and a woman died when the tsunami hit the outlying Ha’apai islands. The official death toll is three. A field hospital has been set up on Nomuka Island after the tsunami took the local hospital.
The Tongan government said it is “deeply appreciative to the international community.” Donations of both resources and money continue to pour in from all sorts of avenues. The U.S. is working in a coordinated, multi-national effort to aid in recovery.