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Water airlift to aid Tuvalu islands in the Pacific

Oct. 7, 2011 at 1:37 PM

WELLINGTON, New Zealand, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- An airlift is being planned by New Zealand and Australia to battle a water shortage crisis in the small Pacific Ocean island nation of Tuvalu, officials said.

A series of flights over the next week will deliver a large New Zealand army desalination unit to the capital island of Funafuti, TV New Zealand reported Friday.

"At present the two operating desalination plants at Funafuti are producing a combined volume of 43,000 liters a day," New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said.

"The minimum requirement for the 5,300 residents is 79,500 liters a day."

Tuvalu is a New Zealand-administered territory of fewer than 11,000 people.

Earlier this week another Tuvalu island, Nukulaelae, had just 16 gallons of drinking water left for 330 people before emergency aid from New Zealand provided relief in the form of water and supplies.

Tuvalu's water shortages are being blamed on a long drought caused by the La Nina weather pattern, TVNZ reported.

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