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Tonga news – live: Islands ‘could be cut off for weeks’ as details of volcano damage emerge

<p>Tonga Volcano Eruption</p>

(New Zealand Defense Force)

Tonga could be cut off from the world for weeks say telecommunication bosses after a devastating volcanic eruption left the island covered in ash.

Fears of a possible humitarian crisis developing on Tonga are growing as details of Saturday’s volcano damage emerge.

The eruption sparked a tsunami and severed an undersea cable, cutting off the country’s communication with the outside world.

Samiuela Fonua, the chairperson of the state-owned Tonga Cable Ltd which owns and operates the cable, told the Guardian that repair operations to fix the damage could take two weeks but warned of the threat of continuing volcanic activity to efforts which would need to enter the Tongatapu waters close to the site of the eruption.

New Zealand and Australia have conducted surveillance flights to assess the damage with images revealing Tonga covered in a blanket of ash which has hampered relief efforts as the nation’s airport runways are also compromised.

New Zealand’s Acting High Commissioner to Tonga, Peter Lund, said the local government had declared a state of emergency.

Key Points

Tonga could be ‘cut off’ for weeks Ash on airport runway blocking New Zealand relief effortsImages show a ‘blanket of ash’ covering the islandOne death confirmed as details of volcano damage emergesShow latest update
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Scale of volcano damage on communities emerging

Buildings and green vegetation in Tongatapu are visibly darkened by ash deposits following Saturday’s eruption.

Thomas Kingsley18 January 2022 08:14

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Images show a ‘blanket of ash’ covering the island

Surveillance images from the New Zealand Defence Force have shown a ‘blanket of ash’ covering Tonga as details of the damage begin to emerge.

Aid agencies have warned that volcanic dust and the tsunami may have contaminated Tonga’s water supplies while New Zealand foreign affairs minister Nanaia Mahuta added that “water is among the highest priorities for Tonga at this stage”.

(New Zealand Defense Force)

Thomas Kingsley18 January 2022 08:11

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Ash on airport runway blocking New Zealand relief efforts

Images from New Zealand’s surveillance of the damage have shown a blanket of ash covering much of Tonga including the capital’s main airport runway, hampering relief efforts.

New Zealand foreign affairs minister Nanaia Mahuta said a C-130 Hercules aircraft was on standby to fly to Tonga’s capital Nuku’alofa to deliver humanitarian aid including collapsible water containers, generators and hygiene kits.

“However images show ashfall on the Nuku’alofa airport runway that must be cleared before (the plane) can land,” she said.

On Monday about 200 Tongans had started sweeping the runway yesterday, successfully clearing a 100m (330ft) stretch of tarmac, but there remained “a long way to go”, according to 1News reporter Barbara Dreaver.

(Australian Department of Defence)

Thomas Kingsley18 January 2022 08:08

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Tonga could be ‘cut off for weeks’ say telecommunication bosses

Tonga could be cut off from the world for weeks, telecommunication bosses on the island have said after the eruption and tsunami damaged a critical undersea cable.

Samiuela Fonua, the chairperson of the state-owned Tonga Cable Ltd which owns and operates the cable, told the Guardian that repair operations to fix the damage could take two weeks but warned of the threat of continuing volcanic activity to efforts which would need to enter the Tongatapu waters close to the site of the eruption.

“We are just going through our preparations for the repair operation to start possibly next week,” he told the Guardian. “With luck we can have our cable ready within the next two weeks.

“The main concern now is with the volcanic activities because our cables are pretty much on the same zone.”

(AP)

Thomas Kingsley18 January 2022 08:04

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Welcome

Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s coverage of the aftermath of Saturday’s Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption just off Tonga.

We’ll be bringing you the latest updates from the island and the surrounding South Pacific region.

Thomas Kingsley18 January 2022 07:57

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