'HORRIFIC': Photos emerge showing island's 'devastation' after tsunami

·News Reporter
·6-min read

New images from Tonga have emerged after the island nation was hit by a tsunami triggered by a volcanic eruption.

Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai’s eruption on Saturday led to the Kingdom of Tonga being hit with huge waves and triggered tsunami warnings across the globe.

It also claimed the life of British woman Angela Glover and two others.

The Consulate of the Kingdom of Tonga shared photos on Twitter of the devastation caused by the eruption with the capital Nukuʻalofa covered in volcanic ash.

A view of a beach and debris following volcanic eruption and tsunami, in Nuku'alofa, Tonga January 18, 2022 in this picture obtained from social media on January 19, 2022.  Courtesy of Marian Kupu/Broadcom Broadcasting FM87.5/via REUTERS  THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT.
A view of a beach and debris following volcanic eruption and tsunami, in Nuku'alofa, Tonga. Source: Marian Kupu/Reuters
A car seen covered in ash in Nukuʻalofa, Tonga, after a volcanic eruption.
Ash covers a car parked in Nukuʻalofa, Tonga, after a volcanic eruption. Source: Consulate of the Kingdom of Tonga

Trees are seen ripped out of their roots along the pristine coastline of the capital. Debris covers the streets as cars are found caked in the ash of the volcano.

Marian Kupu, a reporter for Broadcomfm Broadcasting 87.5 in Tonga, also shared photos of the damage in the capital on Facebook.

Destruction wasn't just limited to Nukuʻalofa either. Photos also showed widespread damage in Ha'apai – a group of islands near the volcano.

A view of a beach and debris following volcanic eruption and tsunami, in Nuku'alofa, Tonga January 18, 2022 in this picture obtained from social media on January 19, 2022.  Courtesy of Marian Kupu/Broadcom Broadcasting FM87.5/via REUTERS  THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT.
The island faces a long clean up and reconstruction effort. Source: Marian Kupu/Reuters

Vegetation is seen torn up with roads ripped up alongside shattered pieces of concrete.

People called the damage “horrific”.

“Devastating,” one man tweeted.

“The poor people and animals.”

Debris seen roadside in Nukuʻalofa, Tonga, after a volcanic eruption.
Three people have been reported dead so far. Source: Consulate of the Kingdom of Tonga

'Our ears were ringing'

Kupu told Reuters Nuku'alofa residents are in the process of cleaning up.

“The dust from rooftops, trees, from offices, vehicles, everywhere. What we are concerned [about] now is clean drinking water because both of our drinking tank water has been affected by the dust due from the aftermath of the volcanic ash,” she said.

"We've got food supply. I think we'll be able to survive in the next few weeks but we're hoping shipments of imported, normal importation of food will be back to normal after this disruption but so far food is okay. Water is our most concern right now."

Debris seen in Ha'apai, in Tonga, after a volcanic eruption.
Damage seen in Ha'apai. Source: Konionia Mafileo via Josephine Latu-Sanft

Kupu said three people have died: one person in Ata Ata, another in Ha'apai and a third, being British woman Angela Glover on the island of Tongatapu which is where Tonga's capital is.

"So the first explosion that happened, our ears were ringing and we couldn't even hear each other so all we do is pointing to our families to get up, get ready to run,” she said.

“So that's what we did. It's like when you're in the aeroplane, couldn't hear properly but the sound, the blast, the sound was so loud, our ears were ringing and you couldn't hear anything.

"We evacuated and then we, all our families were just running away from the Kolovai area, because the Kolovai is right beside the sea shore."

People clean debris following volcanic eruption and tsunami, in Nuku'alofa, Tonga.
Residents clean debris in the Tongan capital. Source: Marian Kupu via Reuters

Overseas Tongans desperate to hear from home

Tongans are only just getting in touch with loved ones overseas now as phone services were restored late on Wednesday. However, the internet remains down and could be disconnected for another month.

Kupu said ashes in the transformer which provides power for street lights has caused issues with switching the power back on. Some areas are experiencing delays in getting electricity restored.

However, the restoration of some phone services will come as a relief to many wondering about the fate of their family and friends.

Former All Blacks centre Malakai Fekitoa, a Tongan national who lives in London, told the BBC he has been trying to get in contact with his mum.

Fekitoa said his mum lives in Ha'apai.

“I just can’t wait to hear what’s happening, and hopefully get something back in the next couple of days but in the meantime I’ll do whatever I can to help out here,” he told the broadcaster.

Three Tongan islands suffer 'extensive damage'

The Red Cross said three of Tonga's smaller islands were severely damaged by tsunami waves, as the extent of the destruction caused by a volcanic eruption is becoming clearer.

UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said about 84,000 people, more than 80 per cent of Tonga's population, were affected by the eruption.

Katie Greenwood, head of the Pacific branch of the International Federation of Red Cross, said a ship managed to reach the outer islands of Nomuka, Mango and Fonoifua on Wednesday, reporting few homes were left standing after waves of up to 15 metres hit inhabited areas.

Mr Dujarric told The Associated Press the three islands “suffered devastating consequences” from the waves.

"Most of the structures and homes on those islands have been totally destroyed,” he said.

“It appears that all the houses were destroyed on Mango Island, and only two are still standing on Fonoifua Island, and extensive damage was reported in Nomuka.”

He noted that people are being evacuated from the islands.

Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai is seen erupting.
Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai erupts on Friday sending smoke into the air. Source: Facebook/ Potungaue Koloa Fakaenatula

The recovery and aid efforts will prove difficult too. It’s not exactly clear at this stage what Tonga needs in terms of international assistance, however, clean drinking water appears to be something the island nation is in desperate need of.

Ms Greenwood said Tonga has expressed a need for “contactless” aid too citing concerns about the spread of Covid-19.

Mr Dujarric said the Tongan people “really don't want to trade one disaster for another”.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said teams heading to Tonga would also be available to help if needed with the evacuation of the nearly 150 people living on the devastated outer islands.

“We are willing to help where it is useful to the Tongan government, and to the extent that they are satisfied with the Covid protocols,” he said.

with wires

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