Tonga volcano relief efforts face challenges – UN

Tonga volcano relief efforts face challenges – UN

Tonga volcano relief efforts face challenges of severed communications, falling ash closing the major airport and strict anti-COVID measures, UN officials said.

According to the officials, casualty toll remained at three dead and an unknown number of people injured.

Stephane Dujarric, the chief spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, “Needs assessments by the Tongan authorities are ongoing and should provide a better estimate of what is required of the international community.

“We are on standby with teams and emergency supplies, and stocks in Tonga are being readied for distribution once humanitarian needs are identified.

“Our staff there are working to assist coordination and response efforts in-country,” he added.

There are 23 UN workers in Tonga, 22 local hires and one international staffer.

In a video conference, Jonathan Veitch, the UN acting resident and humanitarian coordinator for Fiji, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, spelled out challenges following Saturday’s eruption.

Communications within the 36 inhabited of the nation’s 169 islands were limited to satellite phones, as was the capital Nuku’alofa and between Tonga and the outside world.

The major submarine communications cable was severed, cutting voice, video and internet services.

“I’m able to send basic messages by SMS to our colleagues through satellite systems, and we hope that soon phones will be back up and running.

Veitch said, the Nuku’alofa airport remained closed because workers were unable to finish clearing ashfall.

He said ships sailing from Australia and New Zealand would take six to eight days to arrive in a Tonga port.

He also said there is a question of just how the authorities would handle people coming to Tonga when it has extremely strict protocols against COVID-19.

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Tonga volcano relief efforts face challenges – UN

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