New Zealand’s Orion First to Assist Tonga’s Initial Impact Assessment

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Monday 17 January 2022, NZDF Press Statement. A Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion left Auckland at 8:42am this morning for Tonga to assist in an initial impact assessment of the area and low-lying islands.

“The crew’s plans were to to fly first over the Haapai group of islandes, and then fly over Tongatapu to check the status of the runway and port. The aircraft is not landing in Tonga and is scheduled to arrive back in RNZAF Base Auckland this evening,” reads a press statement.

“We haven’t had a formal request from the Kingdom of Tonga to provide further support, apart from this initial reconnaissance flight, but, as always, we remain rady to respond if asked to do so”.

“The NZDF has a RNZAF C-130H(NZ) Hercules on standby to fly to Tonga tomorrow to deliver aid supplies if it is safe to land at the runway on Tongatapu. We have placed personnel on shortened notices to move and the Royal New Zealand Navy ships are being rallied for deployment and may deploy ahead of a formal request for assistance, given the distance to Tonga”.

“Further military flights are also possible to transport relief supplies and personnel as required”.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the tsunami had wreaked “significant damage”. No deaths have been reported so far.

Katie Greenwood of the IFRC in Fiji said that help was urgently needed. “We suspect there could be up to 80,000 people throughout Tonga affected by either the eruption itself or from the tsunami wave and inundation as a result of the eruption,” she said.

“That was a shock to people, so we do hold some concern for those outer islands and we’re very keen to hear from people.”

Source: nzdf.mil.nz/tonga-response