The small islands outlying Tonga have suffered major damage from a tsunami and volcanic eruption, the United Nations announced Tuesday. There were downed communications and a blanket ash that hampered rescue efforts.
Tonga police informed the New Zealand High Commission that there was a confirmed death toll of two. However, due to cut communications in South Pacific island nation, it was not possible for the truth to be known how many people died. Although Tonga’s main airport Fua’amotu International Airport was not damaged by Saturday’s tsunami and eruption, heavy ashfall is hampering international relief efforts.
“The priority now is to get supplies to Tonga. The airport is the greatest constraint on that. “There is still a significant amount ash,” Australia’s Minister of the Pacific Zed Selja stated. Tongan officials planned to evacuate people from outer islands, where conditions were “very difficult, we understand”, Seselja stated.
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 there are 36 people living on Mango and 69 in Fonoi. According to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs(OCHA), the Tongan navy reported significant damage on the Ha’apai islands, where waves of up to 5-10m (15-30 feet) high struck.
Surveillance images from New Zealand’s defence force were circulated via social media in Tonga and showed “catastrophic” damage to Atata, an outlying island. Fonoifua Island, Niniva, Nomuka, Mango and Niniva all sustained damage that was extensive to catastrophic. Mango even lost its entire village.
Tonga is a kingdom with 176 islands. 36 of these are inhabited and have a population of 104.494 people. The capital of Tonga is 65 km (40 miles away) from the Hunga Tonga Ha’apai volcano. It sits on top of the seismically active Pacific Ring of Fire.
The tsunami waves that swept across the Pacific Ocean sent tsunami waves, which were heard in New Zealand at 2,300 km (1.430 miles). BRITISH WOMAN KILLED
The South Pacific archipelago remains largely cut off to the outside world since the eruption cut its main underwater communications cable. The islands are covered in thick layers of ash, according to the New Zealand High Commission. They also stated that they were working to establish communications with smaller islands as a priority.
Angela Glover (50), a British national, was killed trying to rescue dogs at a shelter. It was her brother’s first reported death in the tsunami. Seselja said that they don’t have any additional information that would suggest… significant casualties for the Australian broadcaster Nine’s Today.
He stated that the airport was likely to open by Wednesday. Curtis Tu’ihalangingie from Tonga, the deputy head of mission to Australia, stated that 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 wave – a tsunami of COVID-19. He urged the public to wait until a disaster relief fund was available to donate. Tonga’s aid would need to be quarantined and no foreign personnel would be allowed onboard aircraft.
Red Cross said it was mobilizing its networks to respond to the worst Pacific volcanic eruption in decades. Alexander Matheou is the Red Cross’ Asia Pacific director. He stated that water purification to remove ash contamination, shelter and reuniting family members were the top priorities.
OCHA stated that “further volcanic activity cannot to be ruled out.” The massive eruption had an impact that was felt as far as the United States. Due to the tsunami’s powerful waves, two people drowned on a Peru beach. Officials in Japan reported that there were several evacuations.
The island of Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai all but disappeared following the blast, according to satellite images taken about 12 hours later, making it difficult for volcanologists to monitor activity. Experts stated that the volcano, last active in 2014, had been erupting for about a month prior to Saturday’s eruption.
(This story is not edited by Devdiscourse staff.