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Surveillance photos highlight devastation in Tonga after back-to-back volcanic eruptions, tsunami

The destruction from Tonga's massive underwater volcanic eruption is still being assessed but scientists now warn that the damage could be long-lasting. Images showing impact go viral.

By: Trends Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: January 20, 2022 12:25:06 pm
tonga, tonga volcano, tonga tsunami, tonga volcanic eruption aftermath, Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano, tonga satellite pics, indian express, viral newsA general view from a New Zealand Defence Force surveillance flight shows heavy ash fall over Nomuka in Tonga after the Pacific island nation was hit by a tsunami triggered by an undersea volcanic eruption. (Source: New Zealand Defence Force via Reuters)

Days after back-to-back underwater volcanic eruptions hit Tonga, the tiny Pacific island was cut off from the world after the loss of most of its communications systems. Now, the first images coming out of the island nation showing the extent of damage has left netizens concerned.

Photographs taken by the New Zealand Air Force from surveillance planes show villages in low-lying coastal parts of the archipelago covered with ash and plumes, making coloured photos look almost black-and-white.

Reviewing the images from the surveillance planes, New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta said the photos helped them make “decisions about what support is most needed”. “However, the images show ashfall on the Nuku’alofa airport runway that must be cleared before a C-130 Hercules flight with humanitarian assistance can land,” Mahuta was quoted in a statement released by the government.

The minister said two Royal New Zealand Navy ships have left to assist the Tongan government in aid work, supply bulk water and other humanitarian and disaster relief items. “The New Zealand Government has also allocated a further $500,000 in humanitarian assistance, taking our initial funding total to $1 million,” Mahuta added.

Satellite images that captured scenes after the catastrophic eruptions of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano showed an entire village being destroyed in the tiny Tongan island of Mango, with bright tarpaulin marking higher ground where survivors had since taken shelter.

According to The Telegraph, surveillance crews flying over Atata and Nomuka islands observed “a large number of buildings missing” and “multiple trees uprooted, with debris throughout.”

Significant damage was also reported along the western coast of Tonga’s main island of Tongatapu, famous among tourists for resorts offering breathtaking views. The famous Ha’atafu Beach Resort, west of Nuku’alofa, was “completely wiped out”, the owners said on Facebook. They added that guests and staff had to run for their lives without being able to save anything else.

The damage to the country’s communications network has not only curtailed the relief operation, with roads and the airport being damaged and Tonga’s Covid-19 restriction have also posed a challenge for neighbouring nations in supplying aid.

In its bid to fight coronavirus disease (Covid-19), the country only allows Tongan citizens and permanent residents to enter. All current support is thus being delivered in a contactless way.

Following the second eruption, photos and videos uploaded on social media showed people running from the sweeping tsunami waves.

The underwater volcanic eruptions triggered tsunami warnings and evacuation orders thousands of miles away in Hawaii of the United States, Japan and on the West Coast of the US and neighbouring Fiji islands as well.

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