Red Cross launches Tonga appeal

New Zealand’s Red Cross has launched a “Pacific Tsunami Appeal”, labelling the disaster “one of the largest volcanic eruptions the Pacific has experienced in decades”.

Communication with Tonga has been down following the enormous eruption and subsequent tsunami, which affected the country from early evening on Saturday 15 January.

All communication lines in Tonga, which has 36 inhabited islands, have been disrupted with no timeframe given on restoration.

Katie Greenwood, International Federation of Red Cross’ Pacific Head of Delegation said, “We are trying hard to establish contact with our colleagues at Tonga Red Cross and establish the scale and specific nature of the support they need.” A major concern is the potentially significant impacts on some of the outer lying islands that have been out of contact since the eruption.”

Ms Greenwood said Tonga Red Cross teams will be on the ground supporting evacuations, providing first aid if needed, and distributing prepositioned relief supplies. “Red Cross currently has enough relief supplies in the country to support 1,200 households with essential items such as tarpaulins, blankets, kitchen sets, shelter tool kits and hygiene kits.”

There are fears that communities may not have access to safe and clean drinking water due to saltwater inundation caused by the tsunami and ashfall from the volcanic eruption. Shelter is also a concern, particularly for those communities near the coast line.

Sarah Stuart-Black, New Zealand Red Cross Secretary General said, “New Zealand Red Cross is on stand-by to provide a range of assistance including preparing to deploy a specialist Emergency Response Unit to assist with communications and infrastructure restoration if needed.”

The NZ Red Cross has also established a ‘Restoring Family Links service’ for people in Aotearoa New Zealand who are concerned about family and friends in Tonga. This can be accessed at www.redcross.org.nz/rfl/.

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The organisation said it will work with the Tongan Red Cross to connect people where possible.

Donations to support those affected by the Tongan volcano eruption and tsunami can be made at www.redcross.org.nz/donate/pacific-tsunami-appeal.

The Pacific Advocate urges people to use credible donation channels like the Red Cross rather than private fundraising initiatives that are vulnerable to fraud.

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