Tonga taskforce helps relief efforts in Fiji

A Tongan Taskforce Group is assisting disaster relief efforts at Vanuabalavu and the surrounding islands on Fiji's northern Lau Group, including delivering water supplies, following the devastation caused by Tropical Cyclone Winston, last month.

Task Group 412 consists of 45 military personnel and four civilians from the National Emergency Management Office (NEMO) and Tonga Red Cross, led by Commander Heiss Fonohema and Mafua Maka of NEMO.

Matangi Tonga reports they are based on two Tongan Navy vessels, the Pacific class patrol boat VOEA Pangai and VOEA Late, landing craft in support of Fiji’s National Disaster Management Office, at Vanua Balavu.

Commander Fonohema said water remained in critical demand and better shelters for the majority of the population are needed.

Both Tongan vessels are there primarily to deliver water and relief supplies to other islands as required by Fiji. VOEA LateVOEA Late is delivering water to smaller islands on the northern Lau Group.

VOEA Pangai offloaded relief supplies donated by NEMO and Tonga Red Cross, when it arrived on 27 February. Prior to this, VOEA Late arrived on 5 February and provided relief supplies from Tonga Red Cross.

To date, Tonga, Fiji and New Zealand military personnel have carried out the cleaning of debris and maintenance of government buildings, churches, schools and shelters.

Tonga’s assistance in the relief efforts is expected to end on 19 March. The Tongan Navy's deployment is supported by the Australian Defence Force in fuel and other supplies.