01/24/2022, 11.32
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Caritas Tonga: 'Ashes everywhere, drinking water most urgent emergency'

Thanks to a satellite phone that arrived on site, the Caritas network of Oceania managed to re-establish communication with the workers in Tongatapu isolated after the eruption of the underwater volcano. The death toll of three people has been confirmed amid concern about the fields being invaded by salt water, making it impossible to sow for months. Pre-prepared emergency kits from Caritas New Zealand distributed.

Sidney (AsiaNews) - One week on from the eruption of an undersea volcano in the Oceanian archipelagoTonga - which set off a tsunami, rain of ashes and enormous damage on January 15 - Caritas Tonga has managed to send its partners in Oceania first reports on the situation.

The ship from Papua New Guinea has yet to arrive on site to begin the complex work of repairing the undersea cable normally used for communications, but a satellite network has been reactivated for the most urgent communications. While the airport runway has been cleared, allowing the first flights with international aid to arrive. This has also allowed the Caritas network in Oceania to get a better picture of the situation.

Dan Skehan of Caritas Australia says: "Thanks to a satellite phone provided by Caritas New Zealand and sent on site by the New Zealand army, the Catholic Relief Service was able to re-establish contact with Caritas Tonga. Local operators from Tongatapu have confirmed that ash is everywhere, power lines are not stable and there is no communication with the other offshore islands.

Tongatapu confirms that, for the moment, three people have been killed. Re-establishing contact with the other islands remains the first priority, along with the drinking water emergency, which the damage to the water network has made unavailable to at least 50,000 people. The people," Tongatapu reports, "are drinking only bottled water, but supplies will not last long. There is also concern about food supplies: in the worst affected areas, fields and crops have been destroyed and soil contamination caused by the salt water will make it impossible to plant new crops for at least three months. It is feared that fish may also have been contaminated by the volcano's eruption, which is why food is becoming scarce in shops.

Caritas Tonga - says a report on the situation released by Caritas Internationalis which has launched a fund raising campaign- had some stocks of basic necessities provided by Caritas New Zealand for possible emergencies and that are proving to be an important help for an isolated reality in the heart of the Ocean. These supplies also include a water purification system, jerrycans, buckets and hygiene kits, which workers are distributing to the coastal villages most affected by the tsunami waves. Five communities in particular also suffered serious damage to their homes, with 32 houses completely destroyed and another 72 with serious injuries.

For the emergency response - which are being coordinated by Caritas New Zealand  - the ecclesial bodies of the region and the Catholic Relief Service have already allocated a total of over 18,000 euro. But in addition to the immediate intervention, stocks of essential materials, very important for a remote area like Tonga, will need to be restored.

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