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Wed Jan 19, 2022, 01:24 PM

Tonga faces 'unprecedented disaster' as New Zealand warns of further eruptions and tsunami risk

Amassive volcanic eruption and tsunami near Tonga caused "an unprecedented disaster," the Pacific nation's leader said Tuesday, as New Zealand warned of further eruptions that may complicate the delivery of aid to remote islands where communications are down.

In its first official update since Saturday's eruption of the underwater Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai volcano, Tonga's government on Tuesday confirmed the deaths of three people and several other injuries, and outlined the scale of destruction to communities.

Tongan Prime Minster Siaosi Sovaleni said all houses on the island of Mango, where 36 people live, were destroyed. Only two houses remain on Fonoifua island, and extensive damage was reported on Nomuka island, home to 239 people, he said.

"An unprecedented disaster hit Tonga," Sovaleni said, adding a "volcanic mushroom plume" extended to cover all of the country's roughly 170 islands -- of which 36 are inhabited -- impacting the entire population of more than 100,000 people.


Tonga's Outlying Islands Hit by 49-Foot Wall of Water, Most Structures Destroyed

According to Red Cross officials, three of Tonga's outlying islands suffered severe damage after being hit by 49-foot waves caused by the volcanic eruption on Saturday.

Katie Greenwood, the head of delegation in the Pacific for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, (IFRC) told the Associated Press most of the structures and houses on the islands of Nomuka, Mango and Fonoifua are destroyed.

"Very unfortunate information has come to light overnight about the three islands that we were really worried about—that they have all suffered devastating consequences as an effect of these incoming waves," Greenwood said.

Greenwood added Red Cross teams are working to deliver clean water and relief kits to residents who lost everything on the outlying islands.


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