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Tongans fled for safety after being deafened from volcanic blast.
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Tongans fled for safety after being deafened from volcanic blast.

Tonga’s Hunga Tonga Ha’apai volcano erupted violently, sending tsunami and shockwaves across the Pacific. Families fleding the island nation could only wave to their loved ones to get away. “The first explosion…our ears rang, and we couldn’t hear each others, so all that we did was point at our families to get on their feet and run,” Marian Kupu, a local journalist told Reuters in one first eyewitness account from the South Pacific nation.

Kupu explained the chaotic scenes that unfolded just outside Nuku’alofa’s capital. The explosion, which has killed at least three people, sent tsunami waves some 15 metre (50 feet) high crashing ashore on one small island and badly damaged villages, resorts and many buildings on others. It also cut off an undersea cable, cutting off domestic and international communications.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center said that the eruption was equivalent to five to ten megatons of TNT. This is more than 500 times the power of the nuclear bomb that the United States dropped on Hiroshima in Japan at the close of World War Two. Five days later, communications were only partially restored and eyewitness accounts began to be reported.

Kupu, standing on the side of the road in capital, is wearing a mask with a white scarf to protect her from the volcanic dust that has contaminated drinking water supplies and shrouded Tonga. She said, “The dust is everywhere, on roofs, trees, everywhere.”

“Clean drinking water is what we are most concerned about.” Our drinking water is contaminated by volcanic dust. Kupu answered a question about the food supply for Tonga’s estimated 105,000 inhabitants, saying: “Maybe we can live for the next few days but I’m not sure about water.”

The power supply to the capital and other areas was still weak. “Electricity is back but it’s intermittent. This is due to the accumulation of ash on transformers. Street lights have also been damaged. Kupu said that some outages last hours while others last for days.

People sifted through rubble, dust and waited patiently for foreign aid as they rebuilt. Kupu stated that some villages on the western side were severely affected.

She stated that while she wouldn’t say that we expect more deaths, the government was trying to fly to other islands to check on them. (Written by Karishma Singh, Michael Perry; editing done by Richard Pullin

(This story is not edited by Devdiscourse staff.

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