28 Dec 2016

Tonga authorities scale down operation at landfill

9:05 am on 28 December 2016

Tonga Fire Services has scaled down its operation at Tapuhia Waste Management Facility at Vaini, after a fire at the landfill.

Fire at Tapuhia landfill, Tonga.

Fire at Tapuhia landfill, Tonga. Photo: Matangi Tonga

Firefighters had to battle the massive blaze at the Tapuhia Landfill which started on Christmas Day.

About 20 firefighters were sent to Tapuhia on Christmas Day, assisted by an emergency team of 50 members from the defence services, police, and the National Emergency Management Office.

Tonga's Environment Department stated that the Christmas landfill fire was significantly contained on Monday by the "tireless efforts" of the emergency services and others.

However, Government issued warnings on Tuesday for the public to stay clear of the smoke as toxic fumes are still being emitted from hot spots that remain.

In a statement the government said the likely impact to the environment and human health through the emission of toxic fumes has also been reduced greatly, however, nearby commuters are hereby advised to proceed with caution while outdoors until the fumes are no longer visible.

Deputy Fire Commissioner Sinamoni Kauvaka told Matangi Tonga Tuesday morning he had relieved most of his 20 firefighters, who had been working on the site since the big fire broke out on Christmas Day, so they could go home and rest.

He said there are still some hot spots smouldering with fumes, which should take a few days to completely put out.

The landfill was part of a $US1.21 million ($2.7 million pa'anga) project, funded by the Australian Government, the Tongan Government and the Asian Development Bank and was handed over nearly two years ago on 13 January 2015.