Tonga & Pacific deal with aftermath of volcano eruption

January 18, 2022

Tonga and Pacific deal with the aftermath of volcano eruption and tsunami

Tonga, a Polynesian archipelago that is composed of about 169 islands, was hit by a tsunami on Saturday. The incident was triggered by a massive eruption of an underwater volcano.

The country is facing a dire situation and assessing the damage is complicated because communications have been down. Thousands of people are said to be in need of help.

Australia and New Zealand have sent flights to offer a better understanding of the situation on the ground. The New Zealand High Commission said the western coast of Tongatapu, the main island, was hit in a significant way.

It is still covered by a thick layer of ash. While it will take some time for a complete picture to emerge, experts have been able to map out what unfolded.

Tonga volcano eruption sends shockwaves around the world

The Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano has erupted regularly in recent decades. However, the eruption on Saturday sent shockwaves around the world.

The ensuing tsunami has triggered waves in Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. North and South America have also seen some movements on their west coasts. Some have described the spread as wide and violent.

The waves hit many areas in the Pacific in a quick fashion. In less than 10 hours, they had already reached New Zealand and Alaska.

On Monday, some of the impacts of the eruption were still felt in a few places.

The center of the volcano went undersea on Saturday, and two hours later, the powerful eruption occurred. As a result of this, the land around Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai has disappeared.

Tonga government issues first update after the tsunami

The government of the country issued its first update on the situation on Tuesday.

The official statement made clear that what occurred on January 14 and 15 was unprecedented. Residences on some of the smaller islands like Mango were completely destroyed.

According to a statement from Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni‘s office, three people have been confirmed dead for now.

The internet is down, but some local phone services are still available.

The government is said to be working to restore communications with Tonga. The main undersea cable has been impacted because of the loss of power.

While formal requests for aid have not been issued by Tonga as yet, they are expected to come soon. However, in the meantime, some countries have been active in trying to provide some relief.

Help is on the way with a big caveat

New Zealand and Australia have been at the forefront of the relief efforts. The United Nations is ready to intervene.

The leaders of New Zealand have said that two ships were sent to Tonga with water supplies, survey teams, and a helicopter.

Australia is said to be working on providing humanitarian to the affected country. However, it could take days before medical teams get there.

The COVID-19 pandemic is also an element in these efforts. Tonga is a COVID-free nation, and its government is not eager to open its doors to foreign aid that could help spread the virus in the country.

Some members of the Tongan government have been adamant about the need to strike some form of balance between helping the people in need and protecting the country from COVID.

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