Australia, New Zealand send aircraft to assess damage after Tonga eruption

Australia also announces $1M in initial aid for Pacific nation hit by massive underwater volcano eruption.

Australia, New Zealand send aircraft to assess damage after Tonga eruption

Australia and New Zealand deployed surveillance aircraft on Monday to assess the damage caused by a massive underwater volcano in the Pacific nation of Tonga.

"We're helping our friends in #Tonga following the recent volcanic eruption. One of our P-8 Poseidons has left RAAF Base Amberley to assist the Tonga Government by assessing damage to critical infrastructure such as roads, ports and power lines," the Royal Australian Air Force said on Twitter.

The country's Foreign Minister and Minister for Women Marise Payne also announced $1 million in humanitarian assistance for Tonga and said Australia is ready to send more assistance.

"Will provide an initial package of $1m to meet urgent humanitarian requests from Tonga & is ready to provide further assistance in partnership with (Tonga)'s Government," Payne said on Twitter.

She added that the Australian Air Force was assessing the volcano and tsunami damage in Tonga.

Meanwhile, New Zealand's Defense Ministry said a P-3K2 Orion aircraft had departed on Monday morning to check the status of the runway and port.

"The aircraft is not landing in Tonga and is scheduled to arrive back at RNZAF Base Auckland this evening. So far, we haven't had a formal request from the Kingdom of Tonga to provide further support, apart from this initial reconnaissance flight but, as always, we remain ready to respond if asked to do so," said the statement.

It added that New Zealand would deliver aid on Tuesday if the runway was confirmed to be safe and aircraft could land.

"We have placed personnel on shortened notices to move and Royal New Zealand Navy ships are being readied for deployment and may deploy ahead of a formal request for assistance, given the distance to Tonga. Further military flights are also possible, to transport relief supplies and personnel as required."

According to Australian media, the volcano eruption has cut internet and other communications with the Pacific nation.

Due to the internet disconnection, even official websites and other means of communications have remained silent since Sunday, ABC News reported.

So far, no official confirmed reports are available on the damage and casualties due to the massive eruption, which was followed by tsunami warnings for the western coast of the US and Canada.

The volcano, located 65 kilometers (40 miles) north of Nuku'alofa, had begun spewing ash, steam, and gas on Friday morning.

Hüseyin Demir

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