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Australia delivers water, telecommunications aid to Tonga

The majority of islanders live on the main island, where 50 homes were destroyed.

CANBERRA, ACT — Three flights from Australia carrying food, water, medical supplies and telecommunications equipment landed in Tonga on Saturday, as the Pacific nation continues to grapple with the aftermath of an underwater volcanic eruption and tsunami.

Planes from other nations, including New Zealand and Japan, have also brought sorely needed aid to the Tongan people, said Zed Seselja, Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific.

The first such aid arrived Thursday, after the main airport runway was cleared of ash spewed when the volcano erupted a week ago. The eruption also set off a Pacific-wide tsunami that smashed boats in New Zealand and caused an oil spill in Peru.

“Obviously it’s a very, very difficult time for the people of Tonga. The feedback on the ground again I got today is many people displaced,” Seselja told reporters in Canberra.

Cleanup efforts were going smoothly, with the Tongan government and military officials working together, Seselja said.

Ships from the U.S. and Great Britain were on their way, he said. Also deployed was the HMAS Adelaide, an Australian Navy ship, which has helicopters on board, as well as engineers and a 40-bed hospital. The ship can generate electricity and purify water.

Also Saturday, the Japanese government said a Self-Defense Forces C-130 aircraft arrived in Tonga with 3 tons of drinking water. That followed a Japanese military flight that arrived Friday. Another plane is scheduled to depart Sunday, carrying equipment for the volcanic ash cleanup, the Defense Ministry said.

Seselja said one bit of good news was that casualties have been relatively limited, with three deaths confirmed so far.

Three of Tonga’s smaller islands suffered serious damage from tsunami waves. The majority of Tongans live on the main island of Tongatapu, where about 50 homes were destroyed.

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