The Pacific islands around the main island of Tonga are cut off from the outside world. New Zealand’s and Australia’s aid supplies will be on site in three days at the earliest.
Wellington – All 169 islands of the Tonga region are covered in ash after the eruption of an underwater volcano * , which was observed from space. The eruption was one of the worst in decades. Due to a damaged undersea cable, Tonga is cut off from the outside world and communication takes place via satellite telephone. Even airplanes cannot currently land there because a layer of ash covers the airport’s runway * . Around 200 people with shovels and wheelbarrows are sweeping the site so planes can bring food and drinking water to the Pacific islands.
Australia and New Zealand have dispatched naval vessels to ferry aid to the island kingdom, three to five days away. Three deaths have been reported so far – two Tonga nationals and a UK woman * . The Tongan government described the eruption, which sent plumes of gas, smoke and debris from the volcano up to 20 km into the sky, as an “unprecedented disaster”.
UN official: Good progress on clearance on main island of Tongatapu
Disposing of the ash has proved more difficult than anticipated, but good progress has been made and it is hoped flights can resume soon, UN Representative Jonathan Veitch said in the Tonga region on Wednesday morning (19/01/2022). . “We thought it would be operational (Tuesday) but it hasn’t been fully cleared yet because more ash has fallen,” Veitch told reporters.
Veitch also commended the quick response of New Zealand and Australia in sending relief supplies via naval ships. These would have the ability to desalinate seawater and thus provide the local population with fresh food and drinking water. He pointed out that the ships carried “much of our water and sanitation supplies” and described the situation on the island as “very difficult”.
New Zealand defense minister: ‘takes about three to four days to sail to Tonga’
Peeni Henare, New Zealand’s defense minister, told the BBC his country had recently dispatched two naval vessels which are due to arrive in Tonga in the coming days. “It takes about three to four days to sail to Tonga and they will be carrying large amounts of water, food and medical supplies,” he said.
After the only undersea cable connecting Tonga to the rest of the world was severed in the eruption on Saturday (01/15/2022), communication with the island has largely been disrupted. Since then, many Tongans abroad have been waiting for news from their relatives.
Covid-free Tonga: Authorities worried aid supplies could bring in the coronavirus
Tongan authorities expressed concern that the shipments could spread the coronavirus*. The country only had its first case in October. As the United Nations explained, it is currently unclear whether personnel can be sent to support. Deliveries of water and food are possible, however, as the port on the main island is still functional.
Grocery deliveries were prioritized amid reports that stores were running low on food supplies. Saturday’s volcanic eruption was felt as far away as the US*. In Peru, two people drowned in unusually high waves while beaches near the capital Lima were closed after an oil spill. Tsunami warnings were issued for the eastern coastal regions in Japan, 8,000 kilometers away. (lz) *fr.de is an offer from IPPEN.MEDIA.
Rubriklistenbild: © Tonga Geological Services/dpa