Volcanic Ash Delays New Zealand Relief Efforts in Tonga

© CPL Vanessa ParkerIn this photo provided by the New Zealand Defense Force, an Orion plane flies over Tonga where volcanic ash covers roof tops and vegetation, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022.
In this photo provided by the New Zealand Defense Force, an Orion plane flies over Tonga where volcanic ash covers roof tops and vegetation, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. - Sputnik International, 1920, 18.01.2022
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The eruption of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano from Saturday has caused 12 mile-high ash clouds to prevent other military flights and efforts from making their way to the island.
New Zealand’s military has been attempting to send aid, while Tongans are making an effort to clear their runways at the Nuku’alofa airport so flights are able to land, following the underwater eruption of Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai.
New Zealand foreign affairs minister Nanaia Mahuta told BBC News that a C-130 Hercules aircraft carrying collapsible water containers, generators, hygiene kits, and other humanitarian aid is on standby until the runways are cleared.
Water is much needed, as Tonga’s main sources have been contaminated with volcanic ash. New Zealand’s military also plans to send two navy ships to Tonga that will leave on Tuesday. Additionally, the nation has pledged 1 million New Zealand dollars ($680,000) towards relief efforts.
Communications with Tonga have been nearly cut off as an undersea communications cable suffered damage as a result of the eruption. Chairperson of the board at Tonga Cable Ltd., Samiuela Fonua, said the cable appeared to have been severed only 10 to 15 minutes after the volcano’s eruption, most likely having been cut by sharp coral reef. The break may take a week to repair.
Australia sent military surveillance flights to assess the damage.
Around 104,000 people live in the country, which is made up of 176 islands, 36 of which are inhabited. Tongatapu, Tonga’s main island, has the highest population. Two smaller islands, Mango and Fonoifua, sent out a distress beacon. The office of Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni said in a statement that every home on Mango island, where 50 people live, had been destroyed while only 2 houses remain on Fonoifua.
Catastrophic Devastatation in Tonga's Island - Sputnik International, 1920, 18.01.2022
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While UN officials and Tonga’s government have reported significant infrastructural damage, there are still 3 confirmed deaths, as well as the additional death of a British woman named Angela Glover, who died trying to rescue her dogs.
The rupture was so large its images were captured by satellites in space, causing tsunami waves to be registered even as far away as parts of the Pacific Northwest, including Alaska.
“Further volcanic activity cannot be ruled out,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reportedly said on Monday. Scientists are concerned as they currently are struggling to monitor the underwater volcano.
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