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The main island of Tonga, which was hit by the tsunami, has been damaged and is hindering relief efforts

The main island of Tonga, which was hit by the tsunami, has been damaged and is hindering relief efforts

Significant damage was reported along the western coast of Tonga’s main island on Tuesday following the weekend’s massive volcanic eruption and tsunami, but a closed airport and downed communications are hampering international relief efforts.

The New Zealand High Commission reported damage along the western coast on Tongatapu’s main island. This area is home to many vacation resorts and the waterfront of Nuku’alofa, the capital. The South Pacific archipelago has remained largely cut off from the world since the eruption on the uninhabited volcanic island of Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai cut its main undersea communications cable.

The High Commission stated that a thick layer of ash covered the entire island and it was working to establish communication with smaller islands as a priority. British national Angela Glover, 50, was killed in the tsunami as she tried to rescue the dogs she looked after at a rescue shelter she had set up with her husband in the South Pacific archipelago, her brother said, the first known death from the disaster.

Although there have been no reports of deaths or injuries, the internet and telephone communications are limited and severely restricted in remote areas. “We don’t know if there are any more casualties. However, as you would see, information is still very patchy,” Australia’s Minister of the Pacific Zed Selja stated to Nine’s Today on Tuesday.

“The priority now is to get supplies to Tonga. The airport is the greatest constraint on that. He said that there was still significant amounts of ash. He said that Wednesday was more likely for the airport to open.

The United Nations reported that a distress signal was detected in an isolated group of low-lying Ha’apai islands. It also expressed concern about Fonoi and Mango. According to the Tonga government 36 people live on Mango island and 69 on Fonoi. A satellite image from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs was posted by OCHA. It showed damage to numerous structures on Nomuka.

OCHA reported that there was no evidence of volcanic activity, but did not report any serious injuries. However, OCHA stressed that formal assessments, particularly of the outer islands were still to come. According to Facebook, the Haatafu Beach Resort was located on the Hihifo Peninsula, 21 km (13 mi) west of Nukualofa.

HELP ON STANDBY Australia sent surveillance flights Monday to assess damage. Seselja stated that Australian police had reported significant damage to beaches with “houses thrown about” on Monday.

Australia confirmed that HMAS Adelaide, the navy vessel, is available to assist with disaster relief and humanitarian aid if Tonga requests it. New Zealand stated that a Hercules C-130 aircraft from Hercules was available to fly to Tonga on Tuesday in order to deliver aid supplies as soon it was safe to land at Tongatapu.

Curtis Tu’ihalangingie is Tonga’s deputy chief of mission in Australia. He said Tonga was concerned about aid deliveries spreading COVID-19 to a COVID-free country. Tu’ihalangingie said that he didn’t want to bring in another tsunami of COVID-19, and urged the public not to donate until a disaster relief fund was established.

Tonga’s aid would need to be quarantined and no foreign personnel would be allowed aboard aircraft. COMMS DOWN

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The eruption of Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano, which sits on the seismically active Pacific Ring of Fire, sent tsunami waves across the Pacific Ocean and was heard some 2,300 kms (1,430 miles) away in New Zealand. Fiji, New Zealand and the United States felt the effects of the massive eruption as far as Japan, Fiji, New Zealand, and the United States. Due to the tsunami’s high waves, two people drowned at a beach in northern Peru. Japanese officials reported multiple evacuations.

The island of Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai all but disappeared following the blast, according to satellite images from around 12 hours later, making it difficult for volcanologists to monitor ongoing activity. Experts believe the volcano, which last erupted back in 2014, had been chugging away for approximately a month before Saturday’s eruption. Red Cross said it was mobilizing its network in response to the worst Pacific volcanic eruption in decades.

Alexander Matheou, Asia Pacific director of the Red Cross, stated that water purification was essential to eliminate ash contamination and provide shelter and reunite families. Communication issues have hampered relief efforts. Samiuela Fonua (chair of Tonga Cable) stated that there were two breaks in the undersea communication cable that would not be repaired until volcanic activity ceases. This would allow repair crews access.

Fonua said that the site is “still pretty messy at this point,” to the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

(This story is not edited by Devdiscourse staff.

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