Canberra: In response to a request from the Government of Tonga, a Royal Australian Air Force C-17A aircraft arrived in Tonga today with essential supplies to support its recovery efforts following the volcanic eruption and tsunami on January 15.
The Australian Government's supplies on the flight include shelter materials, hygiene supplies, PPE for people clearing ash and water containers, as well as communication equipment.
Equipment also included a skid-steer loader with a sweeper to support runway operations.
"This assistance will help our partners the Tongan Government meet the Tongan community's needs and support immediate clean-up efforts. Many homes have been destroyed and many people displaced by the tsunami," Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, Defense Minister peter Dutton and Pacific Minister Zed Seselja said in a press release on Thursday.
The delivery of supplies today is part of the initial package of urgent humanitarian assistance.
This is in addition to the Australian Government's existing stores in Tonga, which are already being distributed to the most affected regions via two Guardian Class Patrol Boats and a landing craft that were gifted by Australia to His Majesty's Armed Force's (HMAF).
The C-17A flight today was made possible thanks to the tireless efforts of Tongan authorities who have worked to clear a thick layer of volcanic ash from the runway at Tongatapu Fua'amotu International Airport to enable the planes to land.
"Recognising Tonga's COVID-19-free status, we will deliver the supplies in a COVID-safe way. We are carrying out our work in close partnership with the Tongan Government," they stated.
HMAS Adelaide, currently located in Brisbane, is also preparing to deploy to Tonga with additional humanitarian and medical supplies, engineering equipment and helicopters to support logistics and distribution. Adelaide is expected to depart late today or early tomorrow.
"We are coordinating our assistance to Tonga closely with France and New Zealand, under the FRANZ partnership, Fiji, Japan, the United States and United Kingdom," they said.