Tonga Tsunami Sparks ‘Unprecedented Disaster’

Photo credit:AFP

Tonga said the country is suffering from “unprecedented disaster”, in the government’s first public update since a massive underwater volcanic eruption triggered a giant tsunami, causing catastrophic damage to the islands. 

Communication with Tonga has been scant, bordering on impossible. Communication has been extremely disrupted and difficult to maintain.

There was a single undersea cable that connected the country to the rest of the world, and it was severed in the volcanic eruption. It is estimated that it will take weeks to fix the cable. Some international phone links are said to have been restored, but the country remains mostly cut off. Full connectivity, including connecting online, could take up to a month, or even more, to restore. 

This has meant that very little has become known internationally about the level of destruction the country is facing. 

New photos emerged on Wednesday revealing the sheer scale of the damage. The Pacific islands are blanketed in ash, and the coastal areas were shredded by waves, with trees torn down and buildings completely ripped apart. Waves standing at more than a meter toll struck the shoreline, destroying infrastructure and trees. 

Tonga’s EU consulate released some images of the damage. Cars, roads, and buildings in Tonga’s capital Nuku’alofa had sheets of ash on them.

The level of dust has prevented relief planes from being able to land, and therefore prevented the delivery of much-needed supplies, including food and drinking water. Access to drinking water is now a critical, immediate priority. The risk of disease is mounting, such as exposure to cholera and diarrhea. 

New Zealand sent its Air Force to also take aerial images as well, indicating that some villages on islands had been completely wiped out. 

The damage was caused by a “once-in-a-millennium” eruption of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano. 

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