Jan 27, 2022 - World

Pacific groups urge Biden to step up Tonga aid and climate efforts

Australian crew on board HMAS Adelaide watch as the ship arrives in Nuku'alofa, Tonga, Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022, carrying disaster relief and humanitarian aid supplies.
Australian Defense Force crew on the HMAS Adelaide arrive in Nuku'alofa, Tonga, on Wednesday, carrying disaster relief and humanitarian aid supplies. Photo: CPL Robert Whitmore/Australian Defense Force via AP

Asian American and Pacific Islander groups, led by Tongan Americans, wrote to President Biden Wednesday to urge his administration to ramp up aid assistance to Tonga and follow through on climate action to address root causes.

The big picture: The call came as British and Australian navy ships arrived in Tonga to deliver aid without making contact with anyone on the coronavirus-free Pacific Island nation that's been devastated by the deadly Jan. 15 volcanic eruption and tsunami.

State of play: The U.S. Agency for International Development said in a statement Tuesday that the United States would provide $2.5 million in humanitarian assistance" to Tonga through the agency, in addition to an initial $100,000 already announced.

  • State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement Wednesday that the U.S. was "assisting the relief effort with the deployment of USS Sampson" to Tongan waters, operating in support of the Australian Defense Force.

What they're saying: The letter to Biden notes the disaster has left at least three people dead and caused widespread destruction of homes, businesses, farms and fisheries, and essential necessities including food, water and personal protective equipment will be needed in the coming months.

  • Some Tongan Americans are still waiting to hear from loved ones in the island nation, which was largely cut off after an undersea cable was damaged in the disaster, with communications not yet fully restored.
  • They also noted Tonga is "extremely vulnerable to climate change," with rising sea levels and land erosion already occurring, and called on Biden to "make the climate crisis a top priority this year."

Read the groups' letter in full, via DocumentCloud:

Go deeper: Satellite images reveal Tonga eruption damage

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