Home Web internet Damage on tsunami-hit main island of Tonga hamper relief efforts

Damage on tsunami-hit main island of Tonga hamper relief efforts

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An eruption occurs at the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai submarine volcano off Tonga, January 14, 2022 in this screenshot obtained from social media video. Video recorded January 14, 2022. Tonga Geological Services/via REUTERS

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  • Extensive damage to the west coast of the main island
  • Airports closed, hampering international aid efforts
  • Australia and New Zealand awaiting dispatch of supplies

SYDNEY/WELLINGTON, Jan 18 (Reuters) – Extensive damage was reported along the west coast of Tonga’s main island on Tuesday after the massive volcanic eruption and tsunami at the weekend, but a closed airport and downed communications hamper international relief efforts.

The New Zealand High Commission reported the damage along the west coast of the main island of Tongatapu, where many resorts are located, and the waterfront of the capital, Nuku’alofa.

The South Pacific archipelago has remained largely cut off from the world since an eruption on the uninhabited volcanic island of Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai severed its main undersea communications cable.

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A thick layer of ash covered the entire island, the high commission said, adding that it was working to establish communications with smaller islands “as a priority”.

British national Angela Glover, 50, was killed in the tsunami as she tried to rescue dogs she was caring for at a rescue shelter she set up with her husband in the Pacific archipelago South, said his brother, the first known death from the disaster. .

There are no official reports of injuries or fatalities yet, but internet and phone communications are extremely limited and outlying coastal areas remain cut off.

“We have no other information suggesting … significant losses, although as you will appreciate the information is still relatively patchy,” Australia’s Pacific Minister Zed Seselja told Nine’s on Tuesday. Today.

“The priority now will be to supply Tonga, and the biggest constraint in that regard at the moment … is the airport. There is still a significant amount of ash,” he said.

The airport was now more likely to be open by Wednesday, he said.

The UN said a distress signal had been detected in a group of isolated, low-lying Ha’apai islands, adding it was particularly concerned about the Fonoi and Mango islands. According to the government of Tonga, 36 people live in Mango and 69 in Fonoi.

A satellite image released by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) indicates that dozens of structures were damaged on Nomuka Island.

“Further volcanic activity cannot be ruled out,” OCHA said, noting only minor injuries but stressing that formal assessments, particularly from the outer islands, had yet to be determined.

The Ha’atafu Beach Resort, on the Hihifo peninsula, 21 km (13 miles) west of the capital Nuku’alofa, has been “completely wiped out”, the owners said on Facebook.

STANDBY HELP

Australia and New Zealand sent surveillance flights on Monday to assess the damage and Seselja said Australian police had reported extensive damage along beaches with “thrown houses”.

Australia said the navy ship HMAS Adelaide stood ready to provide humanitarian aid and disaster support if requested by Tonga.

New Zealand said a C-130 Hercules plane was ready to fly to Tonga on Tuesday to deliver aid supplies as soon as it was safe to land in Tongatapu.

Tonga’s deputy head of mission to Australia, Curtis Tu’ihalangingie, said Tonga fears aid deliveries could spread COVID-19 to the COVID-free nation.

“We don’t want to cause another wave – a tsunami of COVID-19,” Tu’ihalangingie told Reuters by phone, urging the public to wait for a disaster relief fund to donate.

Any aid sent to Tonga would have to be quarantined and it was likely that no foreign personnel would be allowed to disembark planes, he said.

COMMS DOWN

The eruption of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano, which sits on the seismically active Pacific Ring of Fire, sent tsunami waves across the Pacific Ocean and was heard approximately 2,300 km away ( 1,430 miles) in New Zealand.

The impact of the huge eruption was felt as far away as Fiji, New Zealand, the United States and Japan. Two people drowned off a beach in northern Peru due to high waves caused by the tsunami, while Japanese officials reported multiple evacuations.

The island of Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai all but disappeared after the blast, according to satellite images about 12 hours later, making it difficult for volcanologists to monitor ongoing activity. Experts said the volcano, which last erupted in 2014, had been blowing for about a month before Saturday’s eruption. Read more

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

Alexander Matheou, Red Cross Asia-Pacific director, said purifying water to remove ash contamination, provide shelter and reunite families were priorities.

Relief efforts have been hampered by a lack of communication. Samiuela Fonua, president of Tonga Cable, said there were two cuts in the undersea communications cable that would not be repaired until volcanic activity ceased, allowing repair crews access .

“The state of the site is still quite messy at the moment,” Fonua told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

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Reporting by Jane Wardell, Praveen Menon and Kirsty Needham; Editing by Howard Goller and Richard Pullin

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