Air Force Orion flies to Tonga to assess eruption damage

By Marena Mane

Photo Credit: NZ Defence Force

The first P-3K Orion aircraft flew out of Whenuapai in Auckland early this morning for Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha'apai to help make an initial impact assessment of the area surrounding Tonga and low-lying islands, according to the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF).

Defence Minister Peeni Henare also wrote on his Facebook page that a P-3K Orion surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft had departed for Tonga.

“Preparation for more support by way of the Navy is still underway,” he says.

“ A lack of communications with Tonga has been a challenge but Defence Force personnel are mobilising so that we can deploy a Navy ship as soon as possible.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said yesterday at a press conference that the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) is preparing to deploy either the HMNZS Canterbury or the HMNZS Manawanui ships.

Photo Credit: Royal New Zealand Navy

HMNZS Canterbury is a multi-role vessel and her primary mission is to deploy personnel, vehicles, and cargo using conventional port infrastructure or directly ship-to-shore using Landing Craft, boats or helicopter airlift.

Photo Credit: Royal New Zealand Navy

HMNZS Manawanui provides the Navy with a  platform for diving and hydrographic specialists to embark and conduct specialised operations. Missions that the ship undertakes include coastal and harbour survey, underwater explosive disposal, underwater search and recovery, and limited mine countermeasures.

New Zealand Red Cross says it is working with the Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent to engage with and support the work of the Tongan Red Cross and any of our other Red Cross societies throughout the Pacific that may have been impacted by the Tsunami.

“At this point in time New Zealand Red Cross has not received any specific requests for support, however, we are ready to respond and are currently actively monitoring the situation.”