Australia delivers water, telecommunications aid to Tonga

Three flights from Australia carrying food, water, medical supplies and telecommunications equipment landed in Tonga on Saturday, as the Pacific nation grapples with the aftermath of an underwater volcanic eruption and tsunami.

Planes from other nations, including New Zealand and Japan, have also brought sorely needed aid to the Tongan people, said Zed Seselja, Australian minister for international development and the Pacific.

The first such aid arrived Thursday, after the main airport runway was cleared of ash spewed when the nearby Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha'apai volcano erupted a week ago. The explosion also set off a Pacific-wide tsunami that smashed boats in New Zealand and caused an oil spill as far as Peru.

"Obviously it's a very, very difficult time for the people of Tonga. The feedback on the ground again I got today is many people displaced," Seselja told reporters in Canberra.

Cleanup efforts were going smoothly, with the Tongan government and military officials working together, he said.

Ships from the U.S. and Britain were on their way, he said. Also deployed was the HMAS Adelaide, an Australian navy ship, with helicopters on board as well as engineers and a 40-bed hospital. The ship can generate electricity and purify water.

A lack of clean water was a priority because supplies have been disrupted by layers of volcanic ash and salt water. Red Cross teams on the ground reported widespread stagnant pools of salt water that were dumped by the tsunami, polluting the clean drinking water sources of tens of thousands of people, said Katie Greenwood, the Pacific head for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Also Saturday, the Japanese government said a Self-Defense Forces C-130...

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