HomeNewsThick Layers of Ash on Runways Delay Aid to Tonga Following Volcanic Eruption

Thick Layers of Ash on Runways Delay Aid to Tonga Following Volcanic Eruption

by TK Sanders
(Photo by Dana Stephenson//Getty Images)

The Pacific island nation of Tonga needs aid following a massive underwater volcanic eruption and subsequent tsunami. Unfortunately, a thick layer of ash on airport runways is delaying recovering efforts.

A tiny island in the Pacific, Tonga sits directly North of New Zealand and due East of Australia. Both major nations are trying to provide aid to local island residents.

New Zealand pledged 1 million of their own currency in aid and relief. The country has sent their military to supply fresh drinking water and other life-saving supplies. Australia has also sent military reconnaissance in the form of ships and assessment planes. They are trying to survey the damage and help where needed. Photos emerging earlier in the week suggest massive amounts of ash scattered throughout the entire small country; as if the landscape were transformed into a “gray moonscape.”

Officials Are Having Trouble Contacting the Island of Tonga

The ash may look mesmerizing, but it is delaying humanitarian efforts.

U.N. humanitarian officials and Tonga’s government “report significant infrastructural damage around Tongatapu,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

“There has been no contact from the Ha’apai Group of islands, and we are particularly concerned about two small low-lying islands — Mango and Fonoi — following surveillance flights confirming substantial property damage,” Dujarric said.

Satellite imagery captured the incredible eruption. A mushroom cloud of ash and steamy gas rose from beneath the sea like ink overtaking a bucket of water. Officials are struggling to know much more about the damage to Tonga because the island country lost all internet connection immediately after the blast. The single underwater fiber-optic cable that connects Tonga to the world of technology was likely severed in the blast. Repairs will take weeks at least, officials said.

Damage that the Volcano Caused

Resorts along the western coast of Tonga’s main island, Tongatapu, suffered the worst from the blast and subsequent 2.7 foot tsunami. Tonga police also confirmed two deaths from the blast, one of which was a British national. Her name was Angela Glover, 50, and she died in a wave during the tsunami, according to her family.

“I understand that this terrible accident came about as they tried to rescue their dogs,” Glover’s brother Nick Eleini told Sky News. He said “it had been his sister’s “life dream” to live in the South Pacific and “she loved her life there.”

The erupting volcano, officially named the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano, last erupted about seven years ago, causing the formation of a new, small island at the time. Any new geological formations remain unknown at this time. Meanwhile, the focus is getting supplies into the country through the layers of ash. New Zealand military personnel hope that the airport is open by Wednesday of Thursday.