Royal Navy patrol ship HMS Spey arrives to deliver aid to Tonga after tsunami disaster

LIFESAVING water and medical supplies have been delivered to Tonga by a Royal Navy team from Portsmouth after a devastating tsunami ravaged the country.

HMS Spey arrived at the Tongan capital Nuku’alofa on the island of Tongatapu where the patrol ship’s 50-strong crew has offloaded 30,000 litres of bottled water, medical supplies and sanitation and baby care products.

The islands’ capital is serving as the hub for an international aid effort supporting the stricken Commonwealth nation.

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A Royal Navy sailor looks inland where residual ash and debris are noticeable on buildings and vegetation in the Tongan capital of Nuku’alofa.

The aid, which Spey collected from Tahiti, will be distributed around islands most severely affected by the tsunami, triggered by an enormous underwater volcanic eruption on January 15, destroying homes and covering the area in volcanic ash.

Chief Petty Officer Ash Head led efforts by the entire crew to unload stores in the scorching sun with the scenes of destruction clearly visible as sailors worked, with debris and ash covering houses and trees nearby.

He said: ‘It is hot out in the sun, so it is good to see the whole ship’s company working together, rotating positions where needed and keeping water bottles topped up.

‘We are looking after each other and we are glad our work can support international aid efforts and help Tonga.’

Sub-Lieutenant Winter, aged 23 from Gosport, is pictured as disaster relief stores are unloaded in Tonga from HMS Spey

Due to Tonga’s Covid regulations, Spey’s sailors have not been allowed ashore, so the ship’s crane and a significant team effort was required to ensure everything was delivered safely.

Engineering Technician Jack Parker, 24, from Emsworth, was involved in the efforts.

He said: ‘The Royal Navy has always been involved in humanitarian aid - you always see it in the Caribbean and this is the first time in a while we have had the chance to help in the Pacific. It is something we should do and I am glad to be helping.’

Lieutenant Commander MacNae, looks on as craning operations take place to unload bottled water. As the Second in Command on HMS Spey she oversees and coordinates the relief operations.

Sub-Lieutenant Kate Winter assisted with the planning for the relief mission – then got stuck in helping unload the aid.

‘When Spey was re-tasked to help disaster relief efforts in Tonga there was a lot of planning needed at short notice,’ the 23-year-old from Gosport said.

‘I researched and briefed our sailors on the needs, culture and Covid status of Tonga so that we can provide help safely and in the most appropriate way. Once the planning was done and we arrived, I have been helping unload stores like everyone else on ship.’

Commander Michael Proudman, Spey’s captain, said he was ‘immensely proud’ of his crew and wished the people of Tonga ‘the very best in their recovery’.

Chief Petty Officer Ash Head leads efforts to unload stores, including sanitary and baby products.

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