Water for Tonga

On 15 January 2022 Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupted causing a tsunami.

High levels of sulphur in the air and the water posed an immediate danger to the lives of the 105,000 people who live there.  Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink..

Tonga is a small archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean 2,382 km from New Zealand.  It takes 6 days to sail there.  Runways required repair before planes could be landed.  An additional challenge has been the need to conduct a contactless international aid operation to one of the few countries free of COVID-19.

The first flights from Australia and New Zealand landed 5 days after the eruption with some water as well as shelter, communication equipment and generators.

The next day HMNZS Aotearoa docked in the capital, Nuku’alofa.  The Aotearoa was commissioned into service on 29 July 2020.  It is an “oiler”: a naval auxiliary ship used to replenish other vessels with its fuel tanks and dry cargo holds.

For this mission, it carried 250,000 litres of fresh water and desalination equipment able to produce 70,000 litres more per day.  That water is now being tankered to the people who need it.

Making the water supply on the islands safe will take a lot longer.

Image courtesy of Major projects report 2018 New Zealand Defence Force under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 New Zealand license.