17 January 2022 | Media Release

New Zealand Red Cross is working with its regional network to respond to the impact of one of the largest volcanic eruptions and 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.”

If people in Aotearoa New Zealand are concerned about family and friends in Tonga and are unable to contact them, they are welcome to use the New Zealand Red Cross Restoring Family Links service available on line at www.redcross.org.nz/rfl/. We will work with the Tongan Red Cross to connect people where possible. Fetu’utaki mai kihe New Zealand Red Cross Restoring Family Links service ‘i ha’o fakafonu ‘ae foomu online.

People can donate money to support those affected by the Tongan volcano eruption and tsunami by going to www.redcross.org.nz/donate/pacific-tsunami-appeal

For more information contact:

media.comms@redcross.org.nz 

Ph 04 495 0139

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About New Zealand Red Cross

The New Zealand Red Cross mission is to improve the lives of vulnerable people by mobilising the power of humanity and enhancing community resilience.

The Red Cross Fundamental Principles guide everything that we do, whether we're helping people in communities across Aotearoa New Zealand or providing urgent relief in response to an international disaster. These seven principles unite the worldwide Red Cross Red Crescent Movement to help without discrimination those who suffer and by doing so contribute to peace in the world.