Tonga

New Zealand High Commission Tonga Volcanic Eruption and Tsunami: Update Two 18/1/2022

Situation

On Saturday, 15 January, a significant eruption occurred from the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai underwater volcano, located about 30km south-east of Fonuafo’ou island in Tonga.

Tonga Police have advised the New Zealand High Commission in Tonga that the confirmed death toll stands at two; one Tongan national and a British national.

Significant damage has been reported along the western coast of Tongatapu, including to resorts and the waterfront area of northern Nuku’alofa. A thick layer of ash remains across Tongatapu, although, there is no new ashfall.

Relevant authorities are working to restore communications to Tongatapu and surrounding islands as a matter of priority.

Communications remain problematic, with international and inter-island calls still not possible due to the damage to the undersea cable.

Digicel (international mobile phone network provider) has set up an interim system on Tongatapu using the University of South Pacific’s satellite dish. This means limited 2G may be available sometime today.

GNS Science has done modelling on the future volcanic activity in the region. The most likely scenario is for ongoing eruptions in the next several days to weeks, with ongoing tsunami risk to Tonga and New Zealand.

MFAT is actively monitoring tropical depressions in the Pacific. There are risks for these systems to develop into a tropical cyclone by Friday between the Cook Islands and Fiji.

New Zealand Government Response

The New Zealand Defence Force has deployed a P3 Orion aircraft to carry out surveillance of the impacted islands. A copy of the surveillance data has been downloaded from this mission and provided to the Government of Tonga.

The HMNZS Wellington (carrying Hydrographic Survey and Diving Teams, as well as an SH-2G(I) Seasprite helicopter) and HMNZS Aotearoa (carrying bulk water supplies and humanitarian and disaster relief stores) departed New Zealand today.

New Zealand has made an initial $1 million in funding available to respond to requests for assistance from Tongan authorities such as relief supplies.

Pre-positioned supplies held in country with our partners Caritas Aotearoa NZ and Caritas Tonga have been released. These supplies include a water purification unit, jerry cans, hygiene kits, buckets and water taps.

New Zealand and Australia are working closely to assist the Tongan Government and support the Tongan people.

To read more about the New Zealand Government’s support for Tonga, read the statement(external link) from the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Minister of Defence.

New Zealanders in Tonga

All New Zealanders in Tonga are advised to register their details on www.safetravel.govt.nz(external link). Communications links with Tonga continue to be disrupted so New Zealanders may have difficulties contacting their whānau in Tonga at this time.

New Zealanders in Tonga should follow the advice of the local authorities, including any tsunami evacuation orders. If you are a New Zealander and you require consular assistance, or are concerned about a New Zealand citizen in Tonga please contact the New Zealand Consular Emergency line on +64 99 20 20 20.'

If you are concerned or have lost contact with Tongan citizens who are not New Zealand Citizens, NZ Red Cross has activated their Restoring Family Links system for Tonga - Restoring Family Links: redcross.org.nz(external link) which may help to connect you with loved ones. We encourage you to visit this website and enter your family members’ details.

Advice on giving

We are working closely with the affected Government to determine what the priority needs are at this time and how Aotearoa New Zealand can best support people affected by the disaster.

If you think you can provide support, you can email PublicOffers@mfat.govt.nz We will be in contact as soon as possible to confirm whether we are able to take up and support your offer of assistance.

In the interim, there is advice on our website on how people can help after a disaster:
How you can help after a disaster | New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (mfat.govt.nz)