NZ in for long haul with Islands recovery: English

New Zealand is in for the long haul in helping its island nation friends recover from this week's devastating earthquake tsunami, Acting Prime Minister Bill English says.

The Government announced yesterday that $1 million was allocated in emergency aid for ravaged Samoa and Tonga -- and that was just a start, Mr English said.

"We recognise it is just the beginning of a long haul through the immediate emergency and into recovery and rebuilding," he said last night.

The death toll has risen to around 150 in Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga, with three New Zealanders among the total. Hundreds are unaccounted for, some washed out to sea. Entire villages were flattened on the south coast of the Samoan main island of Upolu.

New Zealand, which had an air force Orion and Hercules aircraft in the islands yesterday, is sending two more military aircraft today.

An air force Boeing 757 is carrying medical evacuation and search and rescue teams, while a Hercules will carry a light operational vehicle and a desalination plant to ensure fresh water supplies.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully will be on one of the flights.

The Orion headed to Tonga yesterday to check reports that 95 percent of the main town on the island of Niuatoputatu had been demolished.

A contingent of police left yesterday, among them an assistant commissioner to help Samoan police deal with the emergency.

Two experts in identifying bodies, two technicians and 30 radios were on the flight.

New Zealand's Governor-General Hon Sir Anand Satyanand, expressed his sadness at the destruction and loss of life yesterday and reiterated Prime Minister John Key's offer of assistance.

"In happier times we have often commented publicly on the strong ties between Samoa and New Zealand and the warm and friendly relationship our two countries share.

"The strength of any friendship lies not in the good times, but how we respond in the bad times.

On Saturday Mr Key is due to arrive in Auckland after cutting short a holiday in the United States, and within hours he will be on his way to Samoa on a commercial flight.

"It is important that I reassure Samoan leaders, face to face, that New Zealand stands ready to assist -- not just in the short-term disaster relief but with long-term reconstruction," he said.

The Government said last night the New Zealand toll in Samoa remained at three -- with one of those missing, presumed dead.

That toll is not thought to include a two-year-old boy from Auckland, who is missing presumed dead.

He had been on a beach on Samoa's main island of Upolu when the 6m wave struck, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported. His parents, who have yet to be named and originally from Britain, swam to safety.

A New Zealand toddler with permanent Australian residency is also among the dead, Australian media reported last night.

Eleven New Zealanders were in Apia Hospital yesterday, some seriously injured.

One of the New Zealanders killed was Mary Ann White, 55, a mother of three, from Raglan. She and her husband Andy were holidaying in Samoa.

Labour MP Chris Carter and colleague Luamanuvao Winnie Laban, the first New Zealand politicians on the scene, visited the stricken coastal areas where the tsunami smashed ashore.

Mr Carter told NZPA the people were starting to feel the real impact of the death and destruction.

"People have an almost zombie-like appearance," he said.

"While we were in one village they found a body. The church minister I was with told me everyone was coping quite well yesterday in the immediate aftermath but today, finding the remaining bodies, the shock of what happened has really settled in," he said.

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