A massive volcanic eruption in Tonga that triggered tsunami waves around the Pacific caused “significant damage” to the island nation’s capital and smothered it in dust, but the full extent was unclear with communications still hampered today.
The eruption on Saturday was so powerful it was recorded around the world and heard as far away as Alaska, triggering a tsunami that flooded Pacific coastlines from Japan to the United States.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the capital Nuku’alofa suffered “significant” damage adding there had been no reports of injury or death but a full assessment was not yet possible with communication lines down.
After contact with the New Zealand embassy in Tonga, Ardern said, “The tsunami has had a significant impact on the foreshore on the northern side of Nuku’alofa with boats and large boulders washed ashore.
Nuku’alofa is covered in a thick film of volcanic dust but otherwise conditions are calm and stable.”
Tonga was in need of water supplies, she said, as “the ash cloud has caused contamination.”
The country’s Defence Force said, there has been no word on damage in the outer islands but New Zealand sent an air force reconnaissance aircraft early today “to assist in an initial impact assessment of the area and low-lying islands.”
Australia’s foreign office said Tonga has also accepted Canberra’s offer to send a surveillance flight adding it is also immediately prepared to supply “critical humanitarian supplies”.
The United States and the World Health Organization have pledged support, while the United Nations children’s agency said it was preparing emergency supplies to fly in.
A 1.2-metre wave swept ashore in the Tongan capital with residents reporting they had fled to higher ground, leaving behind flooded houses, some with structural damage, as small stones and ash fell from the sky.