Wellington (dpa) – A joint New Zealand-US operation will ship emergency water to the 1,500 people of Tokelau, an isolated New Zealand territory in the Pacific, officials said Wednesday.
The chain of coral atolls about 500 kilometres north of Samoa relies entirely on rainfall. Reports said there is less than a week’s supply of drinking water, and it has declared a state of emergency.
New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said an air force cargo plane would carry 12 large military water containers Thursday to American Samoa, to rendezvous with a US Coast Guard ship.
The boat has an on-board desalination plant that has filled its tanks with about 136,000 litres of potable water for Tokelau. The islands have no airstrip.
US Ambassador David Huebner said the ship would also take a New Zealand team to assess Tokelau’s needs and investigate long-term solutions to the drought caused by the La Nina weather pattern.
McCully said a team was also working to supply water to the island state of Tuvalu that was reported to be down to less than a week’s supply for its 10,500 people.
Tuvalu declared a state of emergency last week and the New Zealand air force flew in two desalination plants on Monday.
McCully said the team was repairing the main desalination plant in the capital Funafuti, and Red Cross personnel took a plant to the worst affected island of Nukulaelae on Wednesday.
“New Zealand continues to monitor the Pacific drought situation closely and stands ready to provide further assistance if required.”
Author: David Barber