‘Unprecedented Disaster’: Tonga Releases First Official Government Statement Since Volcano Eruption

by Victoria Santiago

The island nation of Tonga has released its first statement since the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano eruption on Saturday. It was the biggest volcano eruption in 30 years. Volcanic ash severely hampered communication and rescue efforts on the islands. So far, there have been three deaths on the islands. Two others have also died from the volcano in Peru.

Tonga officials started off by saying that this volcanic eruption has been an “unprecedented disaster.” They followed up with the dangers that the eruption caused. For example, the biggest immediate issue was the threat of tsunamis. Of course, evacuations took place as soon as the warnings were announced. The blast from the volcano was massive. While people couldn’t get on-the-ground photos of Tonga, satellites in space easily picked up images of the disaster.

It’s been four days since the volcano erupted, but communications in the country are still down. The statement says that there is no internet on the islands. In addition, phone calls can only be made from Tongatapu and ‘Eua. Operators are working on getting everything up and running, but the focus right now is on international calling and email.

Search and rescue teams were sent out the morning after the volcano eruption to ‘Atata island and ‘Ahau village. At the time, there were two missing people. They found the first one. The second missing person ended up being the first death. Rescuers brought tents, food, and water to the islands. On some islands, all of the houses were destroyed. On Fonoifua island, only two houses remain standing. Volcanic activity has since died down, and there are no current tsunami warnings, but those conditions are still being closely watched.

The statement was released on the Kingdom of Tonga Twitter account.

Ash From Volcano Eruption Delays Rescue Services and More

Volcanic ash has ruined the water supply for Tongan residents. The ash is also the biggest delay in getting help to Tongans in need. Australia and New Zealand are both currently trying to help the island nation. However, there’s a thick layer of ash on runways that’s stopping planes from landing amongst the islands. Workers have been trying to clear the two-inch thick layer of ash so that rescue efforts can get started.

New Zealand has pledged $1 million towards aid and relief for the small country. In addition to that, they’ve sent their military over to help. They brought fresh water for Tongan residents and other much-needed supplies. Australia is helping by trying to assess the damage. So far, they’ve sent ships and planes out to try to get an idea of which areas need the most help.

The volcano eruption has severely hurt the small island nation and the ocean around it. Scientists believe that the volcano will have devastating effects on the ocean. For now, efforts remain focused on helping and saving Tongans in need.