Tonga Volcano Eruption: Too Early to Assess Damage |

Further afield in the Pacific archipelago, an update from the relief coordination office OCHA showed that infrastructure around the main island of Tongatapu, where several resorts in the western coastal areas were destroyed or badly damaged, suffered significant damage.

So far there are no confirmed deaths, but two people are still missing and assessments are pending, particularly from the outer islands.

shock wave

The eruption was reportedly heard as far away as Alaska on Saturday, while the tsunami that emanated from the blast deluged the coasts of Japan and the United States, also killing two people in Peru.

So far, no official contact has been made in Tonga with two small, low-lying islands, Mango and Fonoi, although surveillance flights from New Zealand and Australia have revealed extensive damage to the western beaches.

Local phone lines have been repaired, OCHA said, but restoring international phone connections and internet service remains complicated after the eruption reportedly severed a vital communications cable on the seabed.

In addition to receiving aid from neighboring New Zealand and Australia, Tongan authorities deployed the national naval force to the Ha’apai archipelago on Sunday.

Next Steps

In this challenging situation, the UN and its Pacific partners are urgently planning next steps, including UN agencies already based in Tonga such as the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Food and and Agricultural Organization (FAO). ), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

To support the Tonga government, WFP is studying ways to bring in relief supplies and more staff, and has also received a request to restore Tonga’s communications lines through the deployment of its emergency telecoms cluster.

The ETC initiative brings together 29 organizations from the humanitarian, private and government sectors working to provide common communication services in emergencies.

Rapid Response Unit teams can be mobilized within 48 hours of an emergency to work with local partners to reconnect communities and respond to up to 10 crisis situations per year.

Typically, ETC teams help restore cellular networks and internet connectivity to affected populations, while also setting up security systems or getting radio stations back on the air, in recognition of the important role communications play in an emergency.


The plume of gas, steam and ash pouring out of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’pai volcano on January 13 before an eruption.

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