Governments and aid agencies try to assess the degree of disaster between challenging communication links.
There are reports of significant damage to parts of the Pacific island nation of Tonga following the massive volcanic eruption and tsunami on Saturday, with New Zealand and Australia preparing to send humanitarian aid amid limited international communications.
New Zealand said a reconnaissance flight on Monday had shown heavy ash covering the runway at Nukualofa’s main airport, which would need to be cleaned before aid flights could begin.
The Tongan government has said the work is being done by hand and could be completed by Wednesday.
New Zealand is ready to help Tonga, New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said in a joint statement with Defense Minister Peeni Henare, adding that images from the flight were also shared with Tongan authorities to assist in the decisions. which support is most needed. .
Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haapai, an underwater volcano, erupted on Saturday triggering tsunami warnings across the Pacific. The eruption was the largest since Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991 with cataclysmic noise heard in Fiji more than 750 km (466 miles) away.
The blast sent a huge cloud of ash and smoke into the air and tore only the Tongan underwater communication cable, which has hampered efforts to assess the scale of the disaster.
Henare said that given the challenging communication situation, New Zealand decided to deploy two Navy vessels loaded with drinking water and other essential items so that they would be ready if the Tongan government requested assistance.
The boats, one of which also carried reconnaissance and diving crews and a helicopter, departed from New Zealand on Tuesday afternoon for the three-day voyage. A C-130 Hercules transport aircraft is also on standby to provide assistance.
Water is among the top priorities for Tonga at this stage, Hanare said. HMNZS Aotearoa can hold 250,000 liters and produce 70,000 liters per day through a decryption plant.
Australia, meanwhile, was preparing a ship for placement from the eastern city of Brisbane.
NZ Defense Force (@NZDefenceForce) January 18, 2022
The New Zealand High Commission in Tonga said earlier that there was considerable damage on the west coast of the country, an area known as the home of several resorts, as well as on the coast of the capital, Nukualofa.
Marina Tongane has reported significant damage to the Haapai Islands with the tsunami estimated to be between five and 10 meters high and traveling up to 500 meters inland.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the surveillance flights had confirmed significant property damage on the suburban island of Mango, home to just over 30 people, and Fonoi, another island with about double the population.
An active beacon of concern was discovered by Mango, the OCHA agency said in an urgent report.
In an update Tuesday, New Zealand’s aid organization, the International Development Council, said power and local mobile phone networks had been restored in Tongatapu, although the connection was not yet stable.
A British woman who was abducted while trying to save her dogs has been confirmed dead, British media said, quoting her brother. There are no other reports of injuries or deaths so far.
Tonga is home to more than 100,000 people living on more than 30 inhabited islands.
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