Tonga Eruption Causes Pollution on At Least 21 Beaches

by Samantha Whidden
(Photo by Dana Stephenson//Getty Images)

Just one week after a volcanic eruption occurred near the island of Tonga, it’s been reported that the natural disaster is causing pollution on at least 21 beaches in Peru. 

According to the Associated Press, Peru officially declared an environmental emergency on Thursday (January 20th). The 21 beaches on the Pacific coast were contaminated by an oil spill at a refinery run by Repsol. The incident is due to surging waves from the volcanic eruption near Tonga. 

President of Peru, Pedro Castillo, confirms that a committee will propose ways of dealing with the situation. Prime Minister Mirtha Vásquez also says that Repsol has promised to deliver a cleaning schedule. The company will incorporate fishermen in the clean-up on beaches. The fisherman will also deliver food baskets to those impacted by the Tonga volcano eruption. 

Vásquez shares that the United Nations is providing a team to assist Peru in dealing with the oil spill. Currently, people are not to go near the 21 polluted beaches due to health concerns. Peruvian authorities further explain that an Italian-flagged ship spilled 6,000 barrels in the Pacific in front of the La Pampilla refinery. Environmentalist actives are collecting oil-stained or dead seabirds. 

Repsol adds Peruvian authorities did not provide a tsunami warning. The ship was continuing to unload oil to the refinery when the waves hit. AP reports that two women were swept away by strong waves after the Tonga volcanic eruption. 

Tonga Volcanic Eruption Survivor Reveals How They Survived the Natural Disaster 

During a recent interview with BBC, a survivor of the Tonga volcanic eruption opened up about he managed to survive the natural disaster. Atata local Lisala Folau reveals that he floated in the seas for more than a day in order to escape the dangerous waves. 

While sharing his story, Folau states that he held on to a floating log while being out to sea for 27-hours before finally reaching shore. “When I was in the water, I remember going under eight times. My legs are disabled and don’t function as well. The sea kept twirling me and taking me underwater.”

Folau also recalls how he grabbed the floating log. “I could hear my son calling from land. And I didn’t want to answer. Because I didn’t want him to swim out to find me. I just twirled while holding onto the log. What came into [my] mind is at sea there is life and death. Until you reach the show. Then you know if you’re alive or dead.”

Meanwhile, BBC reports that communication is non-existent. The only undersea cable that even connected Tonga ruptured into two places. A New Zealand ship made it to the mainland, Tongatapu, on Friday (January 21st). It was carrying 250,000 liters of water. It also has a desalination plant, which is able to produce up to 70,000 liters of clean water every day.