Impact assessment, aid efforts underway as world responds to Tonga tsunami

By Praveen Menon

WELLINGTON (Reuters) – Pacific nations and relief agencies began coordinating relief efforts in Tonga on Monday after a tsunami caused by a massive volcanic eruption rocked moved the small island nation, causing considerable damage.

An underwater volcano off Tonga erupted on Saturday, triggering a tsunami off Tonga’s coast and cutting off the entire island’s phone and internet lines.

There have been no official reports of injuries or deaths in Tonga yet, but communications are still limited and remote areas remain cut off.

A New Zealand Air Force P-3K Orion aircraft departed Auckland on Monday to assist with an initial impact assessment on the area and low-lying islands, the New Zealand Defense Force said on Twitter.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Sunday said the tsunami had a significant impact regarding- 2022-01-15 about infrastructure.

The Red Cross said it was mobilizing its regional network to respond to what it called the worst volcanic eruption the Pacific Ocean has experienced in decades.

“From the small updates we have, the scale of the devastation can be huge, especially for islands that lie outside,” said Katie Greenwood, Head of the IFRC Pacific Mission.

“The Red Cross currently has enough relief supplies in the country to support 1,200 households with essential items such as tarpaulins, blankets, stoves, shelter kits and cleaning kits,” she said.

The agency said there are concerns that communities may not have access to safe drinking water due to tsunami-inundated salt water and ash.

Shelter is also a concern, especially for communities near the coast, it added.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Twitter that the United Nations offices in the Pacific are ready to assist.


The Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano has erupted regularly over the past few decades but the impact of Saturday’s eruption is thought to be far from Fiji, New Zealand, the United States and Japan. Two people drowned on a beach in Northern Peru due to a high tsunami.

New Zealand forecaster WeatherWatch said in a statement about 26 hours after the eruption occurred, countries thousands of kilometers to the west were covered by clouds of volcanic ash.

Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia are affected and the ash cloud is expected to fly east of Australia on Monday, it said.

Early data suggests the volcanic eruption was the largest since Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines 30 years ago, New Zealand-based volcanologist Shane Cronin told Radio New Zealand.

“This is the best-wisdom eruption ever seen from space,” Cronin said.

“The wide and explosive spread of the eruption suggests it could be the largest since the 1991 Pinatubo eruption,” Cronin said.

(Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Nick Zieminski) Impact assessment, aid efforts underway as world responds to Tonga tsunami

James Brien

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