NZ plane and $750k off to Tonga
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.