Air Relief Blocked by Volcanic Ash in Tonga, 3 Unconfirmed Deaths so Far

Tonga officials said volcanic ash blanketing a runway at an airport was delaying aid deliveries to the island nation on Monday.

An air shipment of drinking water and other supplies from New Zealand’s military would be delayed by one day because of the ash caused by Saturday’s eruption of Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano.

The air delay came as reports of extensive damage in parts of Tonga following the undersea volcanic eruption and subsequent tsunami.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the UN humanitarian officials and Tonga’s government “report significant infrastructural damage around Tongatapu.” 

“There has been no contact from the Ha’apai Group of islands, and we are particularly concerned about two small low-lying islands — Mango and Fonoi — following surveillance flights confirming substantial property damage,” Dujarric said.

Three deaths have been reported in Tonga from the eruption, though New Zealand’s Acting High Commissioner for Tonga, Peter Lund, said they were so far unconfirmed.

On Saturday, the volcano erupted about 19 miles into the air and deposited ash, gas, and acid rain across a large area of the Pacific. 

Three days after the eruption, the outside world was still trying to understand the scale of the disaster.

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