Pacific Islands

Tonga confirms three fatalities

January 19, 2022 5:08 am

A P-3K2 Orion aircraft flies over an area of Tonga that shows the heavy ash fall from the recent volcanic eruption within the Tongan Islands. 5 Squadron crew work on board whilst flying overhead to provide vital information to send back to MFAT and various other government agencies.

Three deaths have been confirmed by the Tongan government in its first statement since the eruption of the volcano on Saturday.

It says search and rescue operations began immediately on Sunday morning adding of the two reports of missing persons one was found alive and the other, a British national was, unfortunately, one of the fatalities.

The statement says the other two who died were a 65-year-old woman from Mango Island and a 49-year-old man from Nomuka Island.

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Tonga says it has been hit by an unprecedented disaster adding that some of the smaller outlying islands were particularly badly affected, with all the houses destroyed on one and just two left on another.

Aid efforts have been hampered by ash falling from the volcano.

Volunteers have been sweeping the runway of the main airport to allow planes bringing much-needed drinking water and supplies to land.

Communications with the island chain have been disrupted after the single underwater cable connecting Tonga to the rest of the world was severed in the eruption.

In its update, the Tongan government said the internet was down, but some local phone services were available and work was underway to restore full communications.

A number of injuries have also been reported and evacuations from the worst-hit islands are underway while water supplies have been “seriously affected” by the volcanic ash.

Many Tongans abroad have been waiting since Saturday’s eruption to hear news from loved ones.

Tonga says even though the tsunami warning has been canceled and volcanic activity has significantly decreased, monitoring efforts continue.