Three people have been confirmed dead from the tsunami-generated volcanic eruption that decimated all the houses on one of Tonga’s outer islands. The government issued its first update on Tuesday, stating that three people were killed. With communications https://tmsnrt.rs/3qzVPyy badly hampered by the severing of an undersea cable https://www.reuters.com/markets/funds/undersea-cable-fault-could -cut-off-tonga-rest-world-weeks-2022-01-18, information on the scale of the devastation after Saturday’s eruption had so far mostly come from reconnaissance aircraft.
The office of Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni stated that all homes on Mango island, home to around 50 people, were destroyed. Only two houses remained on Fonoifua and Namuka islands had sustained extensive damage. Curtis Tu’ihalangingie was Tonga’s deputy chief of mission in Australia. He earlier stated that pictures taken by the New Zealand Defence Force, NZDF, showed “alarming scenes” of a village on Mango being destroyed and buildings missing from Atata island, which lies closer to the volcano.
“People panic, people run, and get hurt. Tu’ihalangingie stated that it is possible that more people will die. She wished that this was not the case. Sovaleni’s Office reported that a 65 year-old woman from Mango and a 49 years-old man from Nomuka had been killed. They also confirmed that the body of the British national, who was found Monday, was there. A number of other injuries were also reported.
According to the office, tsunami waves of up to 15m smashed the Ha’apia island cluster, where Mango is situated, and the west coast Tongatapu island. 56 houses were either destroyed or severely damaged along that coast, and residents were being moved to evacuation centers. Atata and Mango are between about 50 km and 70 km from the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai https://graphics.reuters.com/TONGA-VOLCANO/mopanwordva/Tonga-Volcano.jpg volcano, which sent tsunami waves across the Pacific Ocean when it erupted with a blast heard 2,300 km (1,430 miles) away in New Zealand.
ASH COVER Satellite imagery from Sunday shows the caldera of Hunga Tonga Ha’apai collapsed and the island has lost an important percentage of its original surface, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
A rescue operation for Atata began Sunday. It has a population approximately 100 people. The PM’s office stated that there are still challenges to air and sea transportation due to the damage caused by the wharves, and the ash covering the runways.
The islands are covered in ash, as the aerial images from Australia and New Zealand showed. The main Fua’amotu International Airport of the archipelago was not damaged, but the runway was being manually cleared of ash. The OCHA stated that Wednesday was the earliest opening.
As well as the damage locally, scientists say the eruption could have a long lasting impact on coral reefs, coastlines and fisheries in the wider region, as well as causing acid rain https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/tongas-volcanic-eruption-may-harm-environment-years-scientists-say-2022-01-18. Parts of Peru’s coast were dirtied by oil https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/peru-says-oil-spill-affects-least-2-kilometers-pacific-coast-beaches-2022-01-18 spilled from a discharge ship rocked by waves caused by the eruption, Peruvian Environment Minister Ruben Ramirez said.
Tonga’s government is advising people to only drink bottled water because water sources can be contaminated with ash and debris. The prime minister’s office confirmed that the Tongan navy was deployed with water, food, and tents, along with health teams, to the Ha’apai Islands. More aid will be sent on Tuesday.
The NZDF images, posted on Facebook and confirmed by Tu’ihalangingie, showed tarpaulins being used as shelter on Mango, one of the kingdom’s 176 islands https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/tonga-its-volcanic-eruption-2022-01-18. UNDERSEA CABLE
Tonga is expected shortly to issue formal requests of aid, but in the meantime New Zealand has said that two ships, HMNZS Wellington, and HMNZS Aotearoa had set sail with water supplies and survey teams, as well as a helicopter. The OCHA stated that U.N. teams were on standby. Marise Payne, Australian Foreign Minister, stated that C-130 aircraft from Australia could deliver humanitarian aid including water purification kits. HMAS Adelaide, which would take five to reach Tonga, was available to support engineering and medical teams as well as helicopter support.
The PM’s Office stated that limited communications had been made using satellite phones but that some areas were still cut off. The silence was deafening for families waiting for news. “The worst fear of all is not seeing the people you love again,” said Seini taumoepeau, a Tongan Australian living in Sydney who has relatives on the islands.
New Zealand announced that Digicel, an international mobile phone network provider, has established an interim system on the main Island using the University of South Pacific’s satellite dish. Subcom, an American-based private company that repairs subsea cable in the Asia-Pacific region, said it was collaborating with Tonga Cable Ltd to fix the link running from Tonga to Fiji.
Samiuela Fonua (chair of Tonga Cable) stated that there were two holes in the cable’s undersea section. These would not be fixed until the volcanic activity has stopped.
(This story is not edited by Devdiscourse staff.