Surveillance flights have been dispatched from Australia and New Zealand on Monday to evaluate the damage in Tonga, which was hit by a tsunami and covered in ash due to the eruption of an underwater volcano on Saturday.
According to Australia’s Pacific Minister Zed Seselja, initial reports revealed no mass casualties and that Tonga’s airport “appears to be in pretty fair condition,” but there was “severe damage” to roads and bridges. He stated that Australia was coordinating with the United States, New Zealand, France and other countries on relief operations.
At a news conference, New Zealand’s Defence Minister Peeni Henare indicated that power had been restored in large areas of Nuku’alofa and that some communications had also been restored. After the requirements are assessed, a New Zealand Hercules C-130 will drop essentials and the navy will be deployed to help the victims affected by the disasters.
The Red Cross meanwhile said it was mobilising its regional network to respond to what it called the worst volcanic eruptions the Pacific has experienced in decades. The agency said 80,000 people were expected to be affected by the tsunami, and it was concerned that communities may not have access to safe drinking water as a result of saltwater inundation caused by the tsunami waves and ashfall.
The Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano has been erupting on a regular basis for decades, but the effects of Saturday’s eruption were felt as far away as Fiji, New Zealand, the United States and Japan. The eruption triggered a tsunami on Tonga’s coastlines, shutting out the island’s phone and internet cables. Although there have been no official reports of injuries or deaths in Tonga, communications remain limited and remote coastal communities are still cut off from the rest of the island. (NNT)