Australia and New Zealand sent surveillance flights on Monday to assess damage in Tonga after the eruption of a volcano that triggered a tsunami, blanketed the Pacific island with ash, cut power, and severed communications.
“Communications remain down, and the full extent of the harm to lives and property is currently unknown. What we do know is that Tonga needs immediate assistance to provide its citizens with fresh drinking water and food,” Parliament Speaker Lord Fakafanua said.
The appeal came as experts detected another eruption at Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said up to 80,000 people there could be affected.
Australia’s Minister for the Pacific Zed Seselja said initial reports suggested no mass casualties from Saturday’s eruption and tsunami.
Meanwhile, Australian police had visited beaches and reported significant damage with “houses thrown around.”
Katie Greenwood of the IFRC in Fiji also said the people need immediate help.
“That was a shock to people, so we do hold some concern for those outer islands and we’re very keen to hear from people,” Greenwood said.
Deputy Head of Mission in Australia Curtis Tu’ihalangingie asked for patience as Tonga’s government decides its priorities for aid.
“We don’t want to bring in another wave – a tsunami of COVID-19,” Tu’ihalangingie said.
Experts said the eruption of the Hunga-Tonga Hunga-Ha’apai volcano is one of the most violent in the region in decades.
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