Initial reports: Tonga's capital covered with volcanic ash
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
International organizations and neighboring countries are pledging to assist Tonga in assessing the damage caused by massive waves triggered by the violent eruption of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano on Saturday.
The Australian government said early reports described "substantial ash coverage around Nuku’alofa and coastal inundation and damage to infrastructure.”
While communications remain limited, Australian officials said they have been receiving regular updates through its High Commission in Tonga.
The Australian government said Tonga has accepted its offer to send a surveillance flight to the Polynesian kingdom to map out the destructions caused by the twin disasters.
“An ADF P-8 is scheduled to depart Australia for Tonga tomorrow morning, pending ash and weather conditions, to assess damage to critical infrastructure such as roads, ports and powerlines, which will determine the next phase of the response effort,” the Australian government said in a statement.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said it has received preliminary information indicating that the main island Tongatapu is covered with 2cm of ash and the capital's residents have no access to water.
“No injuries or deaths are currently reported but a person is allegedly missing (a member of the coast guard),” the UN said in a press release. “Currently, communications with Tonga are a challenge as regular phone lines are down, the internet cable from Fiji to Tonga seems to have been damaged, and satellite phones are only working intermittently."
Henry Puna, executive director of the Pacific Islands Forum, said the regional organization is pledging its resources to provide relief aid for Tonga.
“In the coming hours and days we will get a clearer picture of the situation in Tonga, as well as the rest of the Blue Pacific continent,” Puna said in a statement.
According to RNZ Pacific, New Zealand is sending naval boats to outlying islands to assess the damage from the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano explosion that was followed by a tsunami.
New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta told RNZ Pacific that 80 percent of power was restored in the capital of Nuku'alofa on Tongatapu, but internet connections remained disrupted.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres expressed his concern over the tsunami warnings that have also been issued in other countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the United States.
“The United Nations offices in the Pacific are closely monitoring the situation and are on standby to provide support if requested. The secretary-general is grateful to countries that have already offered their support,” UN spokesperson Farhan Haq said in a statement.