It's been two days since Tonga was hit by a tsunami after an underwater volcano exploded in the south Pacific, causing damage as far away as Tutukaka in Northland.
At 5:20pm on Saturday, January 15, an eruption at Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano - thought to be the largest eruption in 30 years - caused the tsunami, which was observed as widely as the west coast of the United States, Peru and Japan.
But it was Tonga, about 65km south, that bore the brunt of the aftermath. Footage on social media showed waves crashing into coastal homes. Satellite images showed some of the outlying islands submerged and widespread damage.
The volcano sent ash, steam and gas up to 20km into the air, Tonga Geological Services said in a Facebook post. It had a radius of 260km.
While three deaths have been reported so far, communication has been limited due to a compromised subsea cable link with Fiji. New Zealand officials have been communicating with the High Commission in Tonga via satellite link.
Now, after a successful surveillance and reconnaissance flight of a New Zealand P-3K2 Orion and an Australian P-8, the Government is ramping up support for the island kingdom by dispatching two Navy vessels filled with supplies.
Imagery and details from the reconnaissance flight have been sent to relevant authorities in Tonga, to aid in decisions about what support is most needed, Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta said in an update on Tuesday.
But she said the ashfall on the airport runway of Tonga's capital, Nuku'alofa, must be cleared before a C-130 Hercules flight with humanitarian assistance can land.
The Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K Orion aircraft was unable to depart on Sunday due to ash dispersed by the volcano which caused dangerous flying conditions.
A photo released by the NZ Defence Force from the surveillance flight showed Nomuka, an island north of the mainland of Tonga, blanketed in ash.
Therefore in the meantime, two Royal New Zealand Navy ships - HMNZS Wellington and HMNZS Aotearoa - will depart on Tuesday for a three-day journey to Tonga and return if they are no longer required.
HMNZS Wellington will be carrying hydrographic survey and diving teams, as well as an SH-2G(I) Seasprite helicopter. HMNZS Aotearoa will carry bulk water supplies and humanitarian and disaster relief stores.
"Water is among the highest priorities for Tonga at this stage and HMNZS Aotearoa can carry 250,000 litres, and produce 70,000 litres per day through a desalination plant," Defence Minister Peeni Henare said.
"The survey and diving teams are able to show changes to the seabed in the shipping channels and ports. They will also assess wharf infrastructure to assure the future delivery of aid and support from the sea."
The C-130 Hercules aircraft is on standby to deliver humanitarian aid and disaster relief stores including collapsible water containers, generators and hygiene kits for families, once the airport runway is cleared.
"Other deployments are possible in the next few days, subject to Tongan Government requests and permissions, and COVID-19 border rules," Mahuta said.
The Government has also allocated a further $500,000 in humanitarian assistance, taking the initial funding total to $1 million.
"Australia will work in partnership with other Pacific neighbours, including New Zealand, to support Tonga in a COVID-safe way," Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Sunday.
"Tonga is part of our Pacific family and both the thoughts and the prayers of Australians are with the entire nation, which has been impacted by this natural disaster."
Australia's Minister for the Pacific Zed Seselja said initial reports suggested no mass casualties and that Tonga's airport "appears to be in relatively good condition" but there was "significant damage" to roads and bridges.
The New Zealand Red Cross is working with its regional network to respond, Katie Greenwood, International Federation of Red Cross' Pacific Head of Delegation, said.
"The Red Cross currently has enough relief supplies in the country to support 1200 households with essential items such as tarpaulins, blankets, kitchen sets, shelter tool kits and hygiene kits."
Greenwood said the agency is expecting up to 80,000 people to be affected by the tsunami.