Aid workers are mapping out “extensive damage” in Tonga as the island nation is still largely cut off

Aid organizations reported “extensive damage” in the Pacific island nation of Tonga on Tuesday after a massive volcanic explosion and underwater tsunami, when the first death from the disaster was confirmed.

Early indications of the scale of the crisis in the virtually shielded island kingdom emerged through uneven satellite telephone contact with Tonga, surveillance flights and satellite images, three days after the volcanic eruption.

The body of a British woman swept away by the tsunami had been found, her family states. At least one other person in Tonga was reported missing.

Australia and New Zealand, which distorted Orion’s reconnaissance plan over Tonga the day before, prepared aid vessels for deployment to Tonga.

The UN said a signal had been detected from an emergency lighthouse on a low-lying island, Mango.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said surveillance flights had confirmed “significant property damage” to Mango and another island, Fonoi.

“An active emergency lighthouse had been detected from Mango,” the OCHA agency said in an urgent report. The island is home to more than 30 people, according to Tongan census figures.

Volcanic ash and dust OCHA also reported “extensive damage” to the western shores of the main island of Tongatapu, “with several resorts and / or houses destroyed and / or severely damaged”.

Tonga’s capital Nuku’alofa was covered by two centimeters of volcanic ash and dust, it said. Power had been restored to parts of the capital. Local telephone systems had been restored but international communication was interrupted.

The capital’s beach, it said, was “severely damaged by rocks and debris being pushed into the country from the tsunami”.

Satellite images released by the UN satellite center showed the effects of the eruption and tsunami on the small island of Nomuka, one of the nearest volcanoes Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai.

The satellite center said 104 structures were analyzed in the cloudless area, 41 structures were identified as damaged and almost all were covered with ash.

Tonga Airport had expected to clear volcanic ash from the capital’s runway on Monday, OCHA said.

Australia said the ashes had to be cleared before it could land a C-130 military plane with assistance.

The human fee is largely unknown.

“Clinging to a Tree” The first confirmed death was Angela Glover, a 50-year-old who ran a charity for orphaned animals and was reported missing by her husband after the tsunami.

“Earlier today, my family was sadly informed that the body of my sister Angela had been found,” said her brother Nick Eleini after receiving the news from her husband, James Glover.

“James was able to cling to a tree for quite some time, but Angela could not do so and was washed away with the dogs,” he told The Guardian newspaper.

Tonga’s troubled neighbors are still struggling to understand the extent of the damage, which New Zealand leader Jacinda Ardern said was considered “significant”.

Australia’s HMAS Adelaide, and New Zealand’s HMNZS Wellington and HMNZS Aotearoa were deployed in the event of a request for assistance from Tonga, which is three days sailing away.

Water is expected to be a priority, New Zealand’s defense minister said on Tuesday as water sources in Tonga are at risk of being poisoned by the volcanic eruption.

France, which has territories in the South Pacific, promised to help the people of Tonga’s “most urgent needs” in cooperation with Australia and New Zealand.

Australia’s international development minister, Zed Seselja, said a small group of Australian police stationed in Tonga had delivered a “rather disturbing” initial evaluation of the area with western beaches.

“Devastation” Larger aid organizations, which usually rushed in to provide emergency humanitarian aid, said they were stuck in a pattern and could not contact local staff.

“From the small updates we have, the scale of the devastation can be enormous – especially for remote islands,” said Katie Greenwood, IFRC’s Pacific Head of Delegation.

Even when relief efforts are launched, they can be complicated by entry restrictions for Covid-19. Tonga recently reported its first case of coronavirus ever.

Saturday’s volcanic eruption was one of the largest recorded in decades, erupting 30 kilometers (about 19 miles) into the air and depositing ash, gas and acid rain over part of the Pacific Ocean.

The eruption was recorded around the world and was heard as far away as Alaska, triggering a tsunami that flooded the Pacific coast from Japan to the United States.

The massive waves even caused an oil spill in Peru, when they shook a ship that unloaded crude oil at a refinery near Lima. The spill left at least two kilometers of the country’s central coast polluted with oil, Environment Minister Ruben Ramirez said on Monday.

The outbreak cut off an underwater communications cable between Tonga and Fiji that operators said would take up to two weeks to repair.

“We’re getting sketchy information, but it looks like the cable has been cut,” Southern Cross Cable Networks network director Dean Veverka told AFP.

( Jowhar with AFP)

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