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Australian, New Zealand defence forces launch Tonga relief operations

The Royal Australian Navy's landing helicopter dock ship HMAS Adelaide pictured departing Sydney in support of disaster relief efforts in Tonga. (Commonwealth of Australia)

Australia and New Zealand have dispatched vessels and surveillance aircraft to assist with recovery and relief efforts in Tonga, which was hit by a tsunami caused by an underwater volcano eruption in the South Pacific on 15 January.

The Australian Department of Defence (DoD) told Janes on 18 January that Australian Defence Force (ADF) assets to have been deployed in surveillance operations include a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Boeing P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and a C-130J transport aircraft.

A DoD spokesperson said that the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) is also preparing to launch an aid mission supported by its Canberra-class landing helicopter dock (LHD) ship HMAS Adelaide.

The spokesperson said, β€œAt the moment, we are surveying the damage. HMAS Adelaide is on its way from Sydney to Brisbane with the aim to launch an aid mission for Tonga. But at this moment we don't yet know the full extent and scope of what that aid will be.”

β€œThe RAAF conducted a surveillance flight on 17 January with a P-8 Poseidon. And today, the RAAF has conducted two more flights – involving a Poseidon and C-130J – to provide further surveillance, especially over remote locations,” the spokesperson added.

The surveillance flights were in response to a request from the Tongan government, the spokesperson said, adding that a formal request for aid has not yet been received. β€œOnce that request for aid is received, we will respond accordingly,” said the spokesperson.

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