First images of Tonga volcanic eruption damage show communities covered in thick ash

Aerial photographs released by the New Zealand Self-Defense Force from the Ha’apai islands in central Tonga show trees, houses and fields covered with gray ash – spewed by Undersea volcano Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai when it broke out on Saturday, sending tsunami waves across the Pacific.

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. Several buildings appear to have collapsed and aid workers are concerned about water pollution and food security in the district.

BEFORE AND AFTER: WILLSatellite image of the main port in Tonga’s capital Nuku’alofa, showing the impact of the volcanic eruption and the massive tsunami.

But as Tonga’s first death from a natural disaster has been confirmed and rescue operations continue, aid workers warn the true scale of the devastation remains unknown. Communication was severely affected by the disaster – with several smaller islands completely cut off.

Alexander Mathou, director of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said that in addition to the ash, there was “large-scale damage to the coast as a result of the tsunami.”

He added: “We are particularly interested in low-lying islands close to the eruption. “Right now, we know very little.”

According to officials from several donor countries, the delivery of humanitarian aid to the country has been hampered by ash blanketing the runway of the capital’s airport.

The country’s defense minister, Peeni Henare, said in a statement New Zealand would deploy two Royal Navy ships to the Pacific island nation on Tuesday, the country’s defense minister, Peeni Henare, said. in a statement, saying it would take them three days to reach Tonga.

The two ships – including HMNZS Wellington and HMNZS Aotearoa – will carry a Seasprite helicopter, as well as humanitarian and disaster relief supplies, Peeni said.

He added: “Water is one of the highest priorities for Tonga during this period and HMNZS Aotearoa can carry 250,000 liters and produce 70,000 liters per day through a desalination plant.

An aerial view from a P-3K2 Orion surveillance flight shows thick ash falling over Nomuka, Tonga, on January 17, 2022.

Significant damage has been reported across Tonga, home to more than 100,000 people, with the majority living on the main island of Tongatapu. At least 100 homes across the archipelago have been damaged, with at least 50 homes completely destroyed, according to Save the Children Fiji Executive Director, Shairana Ali. But the number is likely to rise as rescuers work to restore 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 at the moment is to gather details from the officials and Tonga,” Ali said. and added that they are expecting water shortages in the coming days.

An important underwater communications cable connecting Tonga to Fiji has been damaged, and repairs are not expected to begin until February 1.

“This cable is incredibly important to Tonga for all of their digital connections to the rest of the world,” said Southern Cross Cables’ chief technology officer and vice president of operations, Dean Veverka. on Tuesday.

Deaths in Tonga

At least two people, including a British citizen, have died in Tonga after the tsunami hit roads, flooded communities and caused power outages.

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 on Monday.

Glover, 50, who lives in the capital Nuku’alofa with her husband and runs an animal welfare charity, was trying to rescue her dogs when the waves hit, Eleini said.

“It has always been Angela’s dream to swim with whales, and it was Tonga who gave her the opportunity to fulfill these dreams,” Eleini said.

The eruption of an underwater volcano off the coast of Tonga, which triggered tsunami warnings for several South Pacific island nations, is seen in a satellite image taken January 15, 2022.

Saturday’s eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano could be the largest recorded volcanic event since the 1991 eruption of the Philippines’ Mount Pinatubo, according to experts. .

Photos and videos uploaded to social media shortly afterward showed people fleeing the sweeping tsunami, and the afternoon sky darkened behind a cloud of ash. Boats and large rocks washed ashore in Nuku’alofa, with shops along the shore damaged.

Tsunami was felt thousands of miles traveled in Hawaii, Japan and on the West Coast of the United States. Peru’s National Police said Sunday at least two people died from “atypical waves”.

The volcano lies on the seismically active Pacific Ring of Fire, and is about 65 kilometers (40 mi) north of the capital, Tonga.

It has been active since December 20, but was declared inactive on January 11, according to CNN’s affiliate, Radio New Zealand.


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