Tonga: Volcanic Eruption - Flash Update # 4 (As of 19 January 2022)


Situation Overview

On 19 January, the Government of Tonga issued a State of Emergency commencing from 8am on 16 January 2022 to 8am Sunday 13 February 2022.

On 18 January 2022, Tonga issued the First Official Update Following the Volcanic Eruption. It announced that Initial Damage Assessments are underway. One of the most urgent priorities is the re-establishment of communication services for international calls and the internet. Domestic phone calls operate only within Tongatapu and ‘Eua. To date, there are three confirmed fatalities: one British national; a female from Mango Island; and a male from Nomuka Island. There are also a number of injuries reported. The Government deployed two vessels with health teams and water, food and tents to the Ha’apai group where especially the islands of Mango, Fonoifua and Nomuka have been impacted. All houses were destroyed on Mango island; and only two houses remain on Fonoifua island and also Nomuka island experienced extensive damage. According to the government, evacuation of Mango and Fonoifua islands to Nomuka island is underway. As for destruction in the capital Nuku’alofa, the government announced that 21 houses were completely damaged and 35 severely damaged in parts of the western side of Tongatapu including Kanokupolu. Residents had been evacuated to evacuation centers and were supplied with relief items. In the central district, Kolomotu’a, eight houses were completely damaged and 20 severely. On the island of ‘Eua, two houses were completely damaged and 45 severely damaged. Water supplies have been seriously affected by volcanic ash. Government efforts have been made to ensure the continuity of the supply of safe drinking water. Tonga’s cluster system has been activated and is compiling reports on needs to be addressed.

Data from surveillance flights showed that up to 100 houses are severely damaged on Tongatapu and 50 on ‘Eua. Mango and Niniva Islands are heavily impacted with structures destroyed and trees uprooted. Luckily, these islands are only thinly populated. New Zealand carried out another surveillance flight today to capture additional imagery of Tonga as well as Fiji’s Lau Group. Images collected will be passed on to Tongan and Fijian officials to assist them with recovery efforts.

The clean-up operation on Fua’amotu International Airport continues and it is hoped that it will be operational by Thursday. Australia and New Zealand have relief flights on stand-by. The airfield in Ha’apai is covered in ash and dust but otherwise does not show damage and should be serviceable. As for ports, it is understood that ships will be able to dock.

GSC Science (NZ) has reported no evidence of ongoing volcanic or tsunami activity in the last 24 hours. However, activity could resume at any time without warning.


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