Uncertainty remains, Tuesday, January 18, on the situation and the extent of the damage to the Tonga islands, four days after the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano, on an uninhabited island in the South Pacific, about 65 km of Nuku’alofa, the capital of the archipelago. Information from this country of barely 100,000 inhabitants, covered with a layer of ash after the eruption, only arrives in dribs and drabs thanks to rare satellite telephones.
The archipelago is deprived of telephone and Internet connections, the cataclysm having severed an essential cable for its communications, which should not be repaired for weeks. And the cloud of volcanic ash prevents planes from landing.
“I think the worst thing is the cut and the fact that we don’t know anything”, said Filipo Motulalo, a Tongan journalist who works in New Zealand for Pacific Media Network. “There is no communication”, he added.
Two dead and an oil spill in Peru
A 50-year-old Briton swept away by the tsunami in Tonga after trying to rescue dogs from her shelter has been found dead, her family has told the BBC. She is the first death recorded in the country. Two women also drowned on Saturday in Peru, carried away by strong waves following the eruption. This South American country was hit by an oil spill on Saturday in the province of Callao, not far from Lima.
One “limited oil spill” occurred at sea during the process of unloading a tanker due to heavy swells on Saturday off the coast of Peru linked to the volcanic eruption in Tonga, said the La Pampilla refinery, which belongs to the Spanish company Repsol.
The amount of oil spilled was not specified, but authorities said on Monday that the spill was now ” under control “. According to the Minister of the Environment, Rubén Ramirez, the pollution concerns “about 3 kilometers” of beaches, which have been closed.
France also offers its help
New Zealand and Australia sent military reconnaissance planes on Monday to try to assess the extent of the damage from the air and determine what the most urgent aid needs are, according to the neo prime minister. -Zealander, Jacinda Ardern. “We know that water is an immediate need”, she said.
The two countries have also mobilized C-130 military transport planes, ready to take off for Tonga once the ash cloud has dissipated to parachute aid there, or even land there if the state of the runways allows it.
Like many other countries, France, “neighbor of the Kingdom of Tonga” via the overseas collectivity of Wallis-and-Futuna, said “ready to meet the most urgent needs of the population”, according to a press release.
The eruption, one of the most powerful in recent decades in the world, was heard as far away as Alaska. It triggered a tsunami that flooded the coasts of the United States to Chile, as well as Japan. Ash and acid rain battered much of the Pacific.
“The scale of devastation could be immense”
Australian Minister for International Development Zed Seselja said Australian police officers stationed in Tonga had sent an inventory “rather worrying”. “Roads and some houses suffered quite significant damage”, most “one of the good news (…), is that the airport suffered no significant damage”, said the minister.
“From the little information we have, the scale of devastation could be immense, especially for the most isolated islands”said Katie Greenwood of the International Federation of the Red Cross.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has expressed concern for two islands, Mango and Fonoi, after surveillance flights found “considerable property damage” following Saturday’s eruption.