Plans are underway to send a container-load of food and water from Dargaville to families affected by a giant volcano eruption and accompanying tsunami that wiped out homes in Tonga.
Wesley Methodist Church minister Reverend Kuli Fisi'iahi of Dargaville is appealing to Northland to donate generously as thick volcanic ash is affecting access to water and food supplies that may run out soon.
He was able to contact one brother only after communication and power supplies were restored.
Fisi'iahi hails from Niutoua, 20 miles east of Nuku'alofa, and has two brothers and two sisters living in different areas of the main island Tongatapu.
"My family is all well because they are on the eastern part of the main island which was not impacted by the tsunami waves. But they are heavily affected by thick ashes and rocks that are impacting on food and water supplies.
"Our fear is they are going to run out of food and water soon. We're talking about ashes that are up to 200mm thick and with it being very dry, the ashes are like sand blowing on your body."
He said root crops such as kumara, yams, taro and cassava could not be harvested without first removing the ash from the ground which was proving to be a huge challenge.
"Several generations have not seen anything like this. People don't really know how to get rid of the ashes. They are not the normal dust blowing off dusty roads."
Fisi'iahi said he and other Tongans in Northland have plans to organise a container in Dargaville for the public to donate food and bottles of water because that was what was urgently needed in Tonga.
"Every single bottle of water will make a difference to families in Tonga. At the moment, they can't use running water for drinking, cooking, and showering," he said.
The underwater volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai erupted 65km north of the capital Nuku'alofa a week ago sending ash and steam spewing into the sky while sonic booms were reportedly heard as far away as Alaska.
It also sparked tidal waves and tsunami warnings around the Pacific, with evacuations in Japan, Chile and Australia in low-lying coastal areas.
The natural disasters claimed three lives in Tonga and came shortly after the appointment of Hu'akavameiliku Siaosi Sovaleni as prime minister.
Those wishing to donate cash can do so on donateresponsibly.org.
The Council for International Development, umbrella organisation for New Zealand's aid charities, is running the fundraiser which is being coordinated with the New Zealand Government's response.
CID said the most effective response was to donate money rather than send goods that may not be needed.