Satellite images show a similar scene in the capital’s Kolofo’ou district, on Tonga’s main island, with trees and houses completely covered in volcanic debris. Some buildings appear to have collapsed and relief workers are now concerned about water pollution and food security in the district.
BEFORE AND AFTER: SSatellite images of the main port in Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, show the impact of the massive volcanic eruption and tsunami.
But as Tonga’s first deaths from the natural disaster were confirmed and rescue operations continued, aid workers warned that the true extent of the destruction remains unknown. Communications have been hit hard by the disaster, with several smaller islands completely shut down.
Alexander Matheou, director of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said that in addition to the ash there is “large-scale coastal damage from the tsunami wave”.
“We are particularly concerned about those low-lying islands close to the eruption itself,” he added. “At the moment we know very little.”
According to officials from several donor countries, the delivery of humanitarian aid to the country has been hampered by ash rain on the runway of the capital’s airport.
New Zealand will deploy two Royal Navy ships on Tuesday for its compatriot in the Pacific, the country’s defense minister, Peeni Henare, said in a statement, adding it would take three days to reach Tonga.
The two ships — which include HMNZS Wellington and HMNZS Aotearoa — will carry a Seasprite helicopter, as well as humanitarian and disaster relief supplies, Peeni said.
“Water is one of the top priorities for Tonga at this stage and HMNZS Aotearoa can carry 250,000 liters and produce 70,000 liters per day through a desalination plant,” he added.
Significant damage has been reported throughout Tonga, which is home to more than 100,000 people, with the majority living on the main island of Tongatapu. Save the Children Fiji CEO Shairana Ali said at least 100 homes in the archipelago have been damaged and at least 50 have been completely destroyed. But the numbers are likely to rise as rescuers work to repair the lines of communication, she added.
“This is a very unique kind of crisis that we are facing because of the lack of communication… the biggest challenge right now is getting detailed information from officials and Tonga,” Ali said, adding that they expect water shortages to continue. performance. the next few days.
A key underwater communications cable connecting Tonga to Fiji has been damaged and repairs are not expected to begin until February 1.
“This cable is vital to Tonga for all of their digital connectivity to the rest of the world,” Southern Cross Cables chief technology officer and vice president of operations, Dean Veverka, said Tuesday.
Deaths in Tonga
At least two people, including a British subject, died in Tonga after tsunami waves crashed into roads, flooding residential areas and causing power cuts.
The body of British woman Angela Glover was found after she was swept away by the tsunami, her brother, Nick Eleini, said in a statement Monday.
Glover, 50, who lived with her husband in the capital Nuku’alofa and ran an animal welfare charity, tried to rescue her dogs when the waves hit, Eleini said.
“It was always Angela’s dream to swim with whales, and it was Tonga who gave her the opportunity to fulfill these dreams,” Eleini said.
Saturday’s eruption of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano was likely the largest volcanic event since the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines, experts say.
Photos and videos uploaded to social media in the immediate aftermath showed people running away from the overwhelming tsunami and the afternoon sky already darkened by the ash cloud. Boats and large boulders washed up in Nuku’alofa, with shops along the coast damaged.
The volcano is located on the seismically active Ring of Fire in the Pacific Ocean and is about 40 miles north of the capital of Tonga.
It was active from December 20, but was declared inactive on January 11, according to DailyExpertNews affiliate Radio New Zealand.