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ASDF plane carrying water arrives in disaster-hit Tonga

A C-130 transport plane dispatched by the Air Self-Defense Force carrying drinking water arrived in Tonga on Saturday after an undersea volcanic eruption and a tsunami hit the Pacific islands nation last weekend.

The plane left the Komaki Air Base in central Japan on Thursday with potable water prepared by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, a government-linked aid agency. It landed at an Australian air base on Friday before taking off for Tonga on Saturday morning.

The ASDF is dispatching another C-130 loaded with drinking water and two C-2 transport aircraft to the tsunami-stricken country as part of relief efforts.

The Maritime Self-Defense Force transport vessel Osumi is also expected to depart for Tonga to deliver high-pressure cleaners and handcarts to be used in the removal of volcanic ash.

Australia and New Zealand have also dispatched aircraft and transport ships loaded with aid for people affected by the disaster.

The eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga-Haʻapai volcano on Jan. 15 sent tsunami waves across the Pacific, killing at least three people in Tonga and causing extensive damage to buildings and infrastructure there.

Water supplies in Tonga have been disrupted by volcanic ash and salt water, and securing access to safe drinking water is “a critical immediate priority,” according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Meanwhile, the Tongan government said Friday that a total of 14 people were injured in the eruption and tsunami, releasing a figure for the first time since the disaster struck.

It added that 84% of the about 107,000 people who live in the island nation are estimated to have been affected by falling ash and tsunami.

The government also said all three fatalities so far were from the tsunami.

While water remains the top priority for aid, the government said water supplies have been tested, and that groundwater and clean rainwater is safe to drink.

Internet connections have also been disrupted in Tonga after the tsunami severed an undersea fiber-optic cable. The government said a New Zealand plane carrying equipment for re-establishing limited internet connection has arrived, and that a vessel was expected to arrive in the “next few days” to repair the cable.

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