Substantial damage was reported along the western coast of Tonga’s main island on Tuesday (18 Jan) and the death of a British woman was confirmed following the weekend’s massive volcanic eruption and tsunami.
The New Zealand High Commission reported the damage along the western coast of the main island of Tongatapu, where there are many vacation resorts, and the waterfront of the capital, Nuku’alofa.
The British woman, 50-year-old Angela Glover, was killed trying to rescue the dogs she looked after at a rescue shelter she had set up with her husband in the South Pacific archipelago, according to her brother.
A satellite image posted by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) indicated there was damage to scores of structures on Nomuka Island.
Australia and New Zealand sent surveillance flights on Monday to assess damage and Zed Seselja, Australia’s Minister for the Pacific, said Australian police had visited beaches and reported significant damage with “houses thrown around”.
The Ha’atafu Beach Resort, on the Hihifo peninsula, located 21 km west of the capital Nuku’alofa, was reportedly “completely wiped out”.
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 officials in Japan reported several evacuations.
According to satellite images, the island of Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai all but disappeared following the blast, making it difficult for volcanologists to monitor ongoing activity. Experts said the volcano, which last erupted in 2014, had been puffing away for about a month before Saturday’s eruption.
The Red Cross said it was mobilizing its network to respond to what it called the worst volcanic eruption the Pacific has experienced in decades.
Relief efforts have been hampered by a lack of communication. (NNT)