Disasters & Accidents

Australia, New Zealand send planes to assess Tonga volcano damage

Sydney, Australia, Jan 17 (EFE).- Australia and New Zealand sent military planes to Tonga to assess the damage caused by a powerful underwater volcanic eruption that triggered a tsunami in this remote South Pacific country.

Since the eruption of the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai underwater volcano, “there is no current volcanic activity, and the volcano is not spewing ash. Ash that is lingering around Queensland is from a previous eruption,” a spokesperson of the Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology told EFE in an email.

The authorities of Tonga, where power has already been restored but where several parts remain cut off, have also sent navy ships to the most remote areas of this archipelago of 169 islands to assess the damage caused by the volcanic eruption and tsunami.

“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,” Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Henry Puna said in a statement on Monday.

For her part, New Zealand lawmaker Jenny Salesa, who is Tongan, said she spoke on Sunday night with a group of Methodist ministers from her country, who informed her that “one of the main things that they’re dealing with right now is the damage to the water system and the fact that not all of the people were able to protect some of the tank water that they collect from the rain.”

“There are 169 islands in all of Tonga, 36 of those are inhabited, and so we don’t have updates from any of those other islands,” the legislator said in an interview with public broadcaster Radio New Zealand on Monday, referring to the situation in this South Pacific remote archipelago, where the number of victims and affected is still unknown.

The thunderous eruption of Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai, a submarine volcano with a long history of activity and located between two islets – which are sometimes joined by the ash accumulated between them – could be heard hundreds of kilometers away.

Other neighboring Pacific nations, including Fiji, Vanuatu and Samoa, also recorded fierce storm surges reaching up to two meters and have issued a tsunami warning in the coastal areas.

Unlike tsunamis triggered by earthquakes, where tectonic plates unload their force and a second tsunami is unlikely to occur, the volcano could register another violent eruption that could cause another ferocious tidal wave.

The eruption and subsequent tsunami produced tidal waves and floods as far away as Peru, where two women died after being swept away by high waves. EFE


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