Tonga remains incommunicado; damage from the volcano eruption is still being assessed

Afp and Ap

Newspaper La Jornada
Wednesday, January 19, 2022, p. 24

Wellington. The first images of Tonga after the explosion of a volcano that unleashed a tsunami last weekend yesterday showed the devastation in this Pacific archipelago, covered by ash and with significant damage from tidal waves.

This territory was practically cut off by the eruption of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai submarine volcano, which on Saturday cut the island’s connection cable, and now depends on the irregular signal of satellite phones.

The monumental column of smoke from the volcano reached a height of 30 kilometers and spread ashes, gas and acid rain over a very wide area of ​​the Pacific. The tsunami that followed raised waves of up to 15 meters off the coast of Tonga, the government said.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said yesterday that three people were killed, citing the Tongan government.

Three days after this eruption, with communications cut off, the true extent of the catastrophe is still unknown.

The World Health Organization (WHO) indicated that its local delegate, the doctor Yutaro Setoya, is channeling communications between the agencies of the United Nations Organization and the government of Tonga.

The agency indicated that on the main island, Tongatapu, there are 50 houses destroyed and 100 that were damaged. He also warned that the emanations of the volcano generate fears of contamination of water and food.

The government recommended that the population stay at home, wear a face mask if they go out, and drink bottled water, the WHO said in a tweet.

Satellite images show that the submarine volcano located to the north of the archipelago was once again submerged and only two small islets of lava emerged.