The United States continues to increase its assistance to the Kingdom of Tonga in the wake of the recent Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruptions, ashfall, and tsunami.
As announced yesterday, the United States will provide, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), an additional $2.5 million in humanitarian assistance for those affected by this disaster. The new funding will supplement the $100,000 in immediate assistance announced by U.S. Chargé d’Affaires in Suva Tony Greubel soon after the initial eruptions.
The U.S. Department of Defense is assisting the relief effort with the deployment of USS Sampson (DDG 102) to Tongan waters. USS Sampson is providing lifesaving actions in support of disaster relief efforts in Tonga and is operating in support of the Australian Defence Force. USS Sampson has experience providing humanitarian assistance in the region, as the ship provided critical relief following the New Zealand earthquake in Kaikoura in 2016. The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Stratton (WMSL-752) is also underway to join assistance efforts.
USAID is working to address emergency needs and is providing safe drinking water, hygiene kits, and other assistance to address food security, shelter, agriculture, and livestock needs among the most affected communities. Longstanding USAID disaster preparedness programs in Tonga are also responding, including through the distribution of prepositioned supplies. Additionally, a USAID partner is providing emergency alerting and communication systems support and assisted in restoring basic cell phone service after the eruption severed an underwater communications cable, leaving most of Tonga with very limited communications and internet access.
The USAID-USGS Volcano Disaster Assistance Program is preparing to ship volcano monitoring equipment for use when international experts are able to provide onsite technical assistance to the Tonga Geological Services in the coming weeks. The equipment includes a seismic station to detect volcano-related earthquakes, an infrasound array to detect explosions, and supporting equipment for installation and data transfer to monitor the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is monitoring the situation at the volcano remotely, and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is implementing emergency volcano tsunami alert protocols and coordinating tsunami impact data collection in Tonga to bolster future tsunami response. NOAA is also coordinating with TMS and other partners to collect tsunami runup and inundation data. Tsunami data collection equipment, such as laser rangefinders, will be sent for onward distribution to the Government of Tonga to bolster future tsunami warning forecast models worldwide.
U.S. assistance to Tonga adheres to existing World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 preventative guidance, as well as the Government of Tonga’s COVID-19 protocols.
We thank our allies and partners, including Australia, Fiji, France, Japan, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, for their leadership in providing immediate help and support. We continue to coordinate closely with them, as well as international organizations, on assistance to Tonga.
The United States stands prepared to provide support to our Pacific neighbors and contribute to a resilient Indo-Pacific region. Recognizing the ties of shared history and sacrifice, our presence and alliances in the region allow us to come together quickly to provide aid when called upon.