A Royal Navy patrol ship will support international disaster relief efforts after a tsunami devastated Tonga.
An extremely rare underwater volcanic eruption sent giant waves crashing into the Pacific islands, destroying homes and blanketing the area in volcanic ash.
HMS Spey has been diverted to the islands from Tahiti and will be part of an international response to help people affected.
The patrol ship is permanently stationed in the Pacific Ocean alongside her sister HMS Tamar and carries aboard vital supplies for Tonga, including 30,000 liters of drinking water and 400 first aid kits.
Commander Mike Proudman, commanding officer of HMS Spey, said: “The UK has a long history of supporting disaster relief alongside our allies and partners around the world.
“I’m proud that the Royal Navy can play its part in the efforts to respond to the devastating volcanic eruption and tsunami in Tonga.”
Spey left Tahiti yesterday to make the 1,700-mile journey west to Tonga, where the ship’s sailors will work closely with colleagues from Australia and New Zealand.
The sailors will supply islanders with much-needed water and medical equipment to help start the long road to recovering from the tsunami, which has caused terrible damage across the 170 islands that form Tonga.
The Royal Navy’s Lieutenant Jennifer Greenfield is on an exchange with patrol ship HMNZS Wellington of the Royal New Zealand Navy and will lead a surveying team in Tonga.
Her hydrographic team will be in the harbour of Tongan capital Nukuʻalofa, helping make the nation’s main port safe for critical supplies to begin flowing in.
Royal Australian Navy ship HMAS Adelaide will head for Nuku’alofa today carrying UK aid, which includes tents and wheel barrows, which have been requested by the Tongan government.
The volcanic eruption that caused the catastrophic tsunami last Saturday is considered a ‘once in a thousand year’ event.
HMS Spey also carries on board personal protective equipment, including goggles, masks and gloves.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “In response to the devastating eruption in the Pacific Ocean I have instructed HMS Spey to sail to Tonga to assist in the humanitarian aid operation.
“The UK will work closely with Australia and New Zealand to assist the recovery effort in Tonga and stands ready to support our long-standing Commonwealth partner.”
Spey’s sister ship Tamar is not heading to Tonga, as she is currently involved in the international effort to enforce UN sanctions on North Korea.
Tamar carried out a patrol of the East China Sea to prevent fuel or refined petrol being delivered to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – sanctions imposed by the United Nations to target the country’s Weapons of Mass Destruction and ballistic missile programs.