Concern about psychological trauma amid Tonga’s recovery

By RNZ.co.nz and is republished with permission.

As Tonga’s recovery from the recent volcanic eruption and tsunami ramps up there is concern for the psychological and emotional wellbeing of survivors.

According to the government 84 percent of the population has been impacted, with assessments of the widespread destruction still being conducted.

Two Tongans and a British national were killed during the disaster.

Ash and debris covering houses and a road in Nuku'alofa, Tonga.
Photo: Consulate of the Kingdom of Tonga

RNZ Pacific’s Tonga correspondent Kalafi Moala said while the recovery is building up steam a lot of people are till visibily shaken.

“For example near here, where there were homes in the waterfront that were destroyed, when you go over to inspect the place you see people that are just staring. With looks in their faces not only of disappointment but it is a look of hurt,” he said.

French aid

A French navy is to ship relief supplies to Tonga following the volcanic eruption and tsunami.

The Red Cross in Noumea has readied 21 pallets which the patrol vessel La Glorieuse will deliver to Nukualofa.

The 10 tons of goods include tents for about 100 families, hygiene kits, solar-powered lights as well as masks.

A coordinator Vincent Lepley has told the local broadcaster as Tonga is Covid-19 free, no staff will be sent.

He says the delivery will be made within the French partnership with New Zealand and Australia as well as Tonga’s Red Cross.

Help from Fiji on the way

The first contingent of 51 Fiji soldiers are still awaiting approval from the Tongan Government to assist New Zealand and Australia in their relief efforts in the Kingdom.

The Fijians arrived in Brisbane last Saturday to join Australia’s Defence Forces deployment to Tonga.

Fiji army commander Major-General Ro Jone Kalouniwai says the group consists of engineers, medics and other specialists.

He says they will carry out rehabilitation and further assessments in Tonga.

The Fiji military said the soldiers had completed Covid-19 tests and isolation requirements before heading to Australia.

“Looking at the damage and the things that happened in Tonga so far, we are going engineer heavy so we taking a lot of plant operators, we are looking at construction workers, civil engineers and also medical staff. The rest are all part of the manpower that can assist these specialists’ engineers in the work they are doing,” he said.

Volunteers needed

12 shipping containers bound for Tonga have been fully packed with food and water by Aotearoa Tonga Relief Committee volunteers.

13 additional containers are being sent to Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium today.

The drop off points for the public remain closed as the hundreds of drums already onsite need loading.

Committee Co-chair Jenny Salesa says volunteers worked until 10pm last night.

But she says more man power is needed for the final push today, with packers expected to work until midnight.

Alt text:
The Aotearoa Tonga Relief Committee is coordinating shipping containers at Auckland's Mt Smart Stadium to be filled with donations, including emergency supplies from family in New Zealand to relatives in Tonga.
Photo: RNZ / Lydia Lewis

All volunteers must be fully vaccinated.

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