WELLINGTON: The world is watching the current situation in Tonga, a South Pacific island nation that was hit by a volcanic eruption and a tsunami. Tonga is isolated and unable to communicate with the outside world. The eruption took place last Saturday in the active volcano ‘Hanga – Tonga – Hunga – Hapai’, 30 km southeast of Phonovafo Island in Tonga.
The epicenter was reported below the Pacific Ocean floor, however; no tsunami alert was issued. No casualties have been reported in Tonga so far, but the extent of the disaster has not been determined as communication systems have been disrupted. Meanwhile, there are unconfirmed reports that a British woman has died in a tsunami in Tonga.
Heavy sea swells were reported off the Pacific coast as a result of the volcanic eruption in Tonga. New Zealand and Australia have sent surveillance planes to assess the damage in Tonga. Coastal areas of Tonga, where internet and telephone communications were limited, were completely cut off in the aftermath of the volcanic eruption and tsunami. An undersea internet cable was also damaged.
At the same time, there are growing concerns that large volcanic ash in Tonga as a result of the volcanic eruption may have polluted drinking water sources and the air. A low-intensity eruption was also reported in the Hanga-Tonga volcano yesterday. This is the third eruption in four days. Researchers estimate that the eruption caused by the tsunami was the largest volcanic eruption on Earth in 30 years.
The volcano first erupted last Friday. The epicenter was reported below the Pacific Ocean floor, however; no tsunami alert was issued at 5.30 pm on Saturday. Tonga is made up of 170 small islands spread over an area of 700,000 square kilometers. About 100,000 people live in Tonga. Most of them live on the island of Tongatapu.