NZ plane and $750k off to Tonga

Nelson Mail - - NEWS - STUFF RE­PORTER

The New Zealand Gov­ern­ment has a mil­i­tary plane and $750,000 ready to help cy­clone-bat­tered Tonga.

The Pa­cific na­tion was be­sieged by the cat­e­gory 4 trop­i­cal cy­clone on Mon­day night in what has been called the worst storm to hit the coun­try in 60 years, with gusts of up to 278kmh.

The New Zealand Gov­ern­ment had al­ready pledged $50,000 to help but Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern said a con­tin­gency fund had been signed off that out­strips that, so there was ‘‘no hold up’’ when they knew where to use the funds.

The plane was ready to go once it was safe to land it in Tonga and the Gov­ern­ment was aware of ex­actly what was needed.

‘‘We are at the mo­ment wait­ing for first light so there’s the abil­ity to sur­vey the dam­age that’s been done,’’ Ardern said yes­ter­day morn­ing. ‘‘We have the De­fence Force planes at the ready, and they have for in­stance the abil­ity to bring over equip­ment if that’s what’s re­quired, emer­gency ac­com­mo­da­tion tar­pau­lins and so on.

‘‘As soon as we know what needs to be loaded we’ve got it all ready, ev­ery emer­gency re­sponse we can an­tic­i­pate is at the ready, as soon as we know what’s needed.’’ .

If a plane could not land at any point soon it was pos­si­ble the sup­plies could be shifted to Tonga by ship.

For­eign Affairs Min­is­ter Win­ston Peters said the $750,000 was an ‘‘ini­tial’’ con­tri­bu­tion.

‘‘This ... will en­able us to re­spond quickly to re­quests from the Gov­ern­ment of Tonga to meet im­me­di­ate needs, such as emer­gency shel­ter, wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion. We stand ready to pro­vide ad­di­tional sup­port as the ex­tent of the dam­age be­comes clear,’’ Peters said.

‘‘We will also be re­spond­ing to re­quests for as­sis­tance from New Zealan­ders in Tonga.

‘‘Given the force of this cy­clone all signs point to a lengthy cleanup ef­fort and our thoughts are with the Gov­ern­ment and peo­ple of Tonga as they come to terms with the scale of this dis­as­ter,’’ Peters said.

New Zealand de­ployed a huge force to help the cleanup af­ter Cy­clone Win­ston in 2016, with two ships, six air­craft, and al­most 500 per­son­nel be­ing sent.

‘‘We see our­selves as hav­ing a huge re­spon­si­bil­ity here. For us it’s just a mat­ter of mak­ing sure we meet the need,’’ Ardern said.

Act­ing Ton­gan Prime Min­is­ter Semisi Sik de­clared a state of emer­gency on Mon­day as Gita bore down on the Pa­cific na­tion.

Jacinda Ardern

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