Tonga volcano: 84% of population affected

Eighty-four percent of the population of Tonga has been affected by the ashfall and tsunami that hit the country, the Tongan government has said in its second update since the volcanic eruption on 15 January.

Sixty-two residents of the remote Mango Island have had to relocate to nearby Nomuka Island after losing their homes and belongings, and the government warned they may have to relocate again to the main island due to food and water shortages.

The government also released the names of the two Tongan nationals who died in the tsunami: Lataimaumi Lauaki, a 49-year-old woman from Nomuka; and Telai Tutu’ila, a 65-year-old man from Mango Island. They were buried in the days after the disaster.

As well as the three fatalities, which included 50-year-old British woman Angela Glover, several people had been injured, the government said, including one person on Ha’apai who required emergency medical treatment, eight injuries on Nomuka Island, four minor injuries on Fonoi Island and two minor injuries on Tungua Island.

A field hospital was set up on Nomuka, where the tsunami washed away the health centre.

The government said communication between the islands, which was cut off when the eruption damaged the undersea communications cable, was “an acute challenge”, though some international calls were now possible.

“A New Zealand relief flight arrived with much-needed telecommunications equipment to re-establish limited internet connection,” the statement said.

The vessel that will attempt to repair the undersea communications cable, severed by the eruption and tsunami, is expected to reach Tonga “in the next few days”, the government said.

“Although there has been no further volcanic activity, challenges to sea transportation remain as fallout on the surface of the ocean is causing damage to the vessels.”

The National Emergency Operations Centre said water was their main request and they had distributed nearly 60,000 litres already. But the government said “water supplies have been tested: groundwater and clean water are safe to drink”.

Bulk water supplies and relief stores, donated from New Zealand, arrived last week, with more due to arrive from Australia early this week onboard the HMAS Adelaide.

Support has also been pledged from the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Japan and China.

“His Majesty’s government is deeply appreciative to the international community for their generous and timely assistance in response to this unprecedented event,” the Tongan government said.


The Guardian