Volcanic eruption, tsunami: First images of devastating damage as Tongan residents warned air toxic, water contaminated

The first news and images are beginning to filter out of Tonga following the violent eruption of an underground volcano 65km north of the capital Nuku’alofa.

Last night’s eruption sent ash and steam spewing into the sky while sonic booms have been reportedly heard as far away as Alaska.

It’s also sparked tidal waves and tsunami warnings around the Pacific, with evacuations in Japan, Chile and Australia in low-lying coastal areas.

Thousands of people in New Zealand have been desperately trying to get in touch with their loved ones in the Pacific nation since last night, when people posted videos of black skies and people running away from surging waves.

There has been minimal word from Tonga since as power has been cut and communications are down.

However news is beginning to filter through. An unverified post to Tongan Facebook forum Live It TONGA said the tsunami warning was still active but the Prime Minister was allowing petrol stations, bakeries and shops to open from 10am-2pm today for necessities.

The air was toxic across Tonga but the good news was there were no reports of deaths, said the poster.

Tongan authorities had requested water, as the ash cloud had contaminated water supplies.

The NZ High Commission said north Nuku’alofa had been impacted, with large boulders washed ashore.

Pictures and video posted from Lifuka island in Ha’apai shows the water has subsided but large chunks of concrete, stones, trees and even corned beef are strewn across the ground.

Save the Children said the immediate concern was for air and water safety due to ash and smoke.

“The government has asked the public to wear masks and use bottled water for now,” said a statement from the charity.

Save the Children has only a small presence in Tonga but more staff and resources in Fiji and Vanuatu and is standing by ready to give aid.

The New Zealand High Commission in Nuku’alofa was also monitoring the situation closely and was in contact with local authorities, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson said.

“As yet there are no official reports of injuries or deaths. However, communications are limited.

“Damage assessments are under way and New Zealand has formally offered to provide assistance to Tonga.” Aerial surveillance would be carried out as soon as conditions allowed, and an initial $500,000 was available for any immediate requests from the Tongan government.

“Communications links with Tonga have been disrupted so New Zealanders may have difficulties contacting their whānau in Tonga at this time,” Mfat said.

There were 30 New Zealanders registered on SafeTravel in Tonga but others were urged to register through the www.safetravel.govt.nz website.

Source: Read Full Article