Tonga: the volcano and the disappeared island, the images

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For the government of Tonga it is “an unprecedented tragedy” and the images are still only partially telling it. The connections with the State in the Pacific are interrupted after the eruption, on Saturday 15 January, of the vulcano sottomarino South-South African volcano. The news is patchy, but the scale of the disaster seems increasingly serious.

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The roar was heard 2300 kilometers away. The center of the volcano has disappeared below sea level. Saturday was the worst volcanic eruption of the last 30 years.

The two islands between which the eruption took place are practically destroyed. The area is about 70 kilometers from the capital Nuku’alofa, 30 kilometers southeast of the Fonuafo’ou island of Tonga. The eruption generated waves that hit Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the western coasts of North and South America. In Peru, there was an oil spill on some beaches.

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Submarine cables are damaged and there is little chance of communicating with Tonga. No internet and no phones. From the New Zeland an aerial survey was made showing entire islands sprinkled with volcanic ash. Impossible to land due to too much ash on the runway.

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Of the 169 islands of the Tonga archipelago, many are uninhabited. In the state live 105 thousand inhabitants, at least 80 thousand those who could have had damage. The first data speak of 3 victims, one is a British citizen who tried to save her dogs. There are collapsed or damaged buildings in the capital Nuku’alofa and throughout the main island of the archipelago.

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New Zealand has allocated 1 million New Zealand dollars, almost 600 thousand euros, for relief efforts. Australia will also bring aid. Ships with water and essential goods left New Zealand. To the difficulties of reaching the archipelago is added the fact that Tonga is Covid free and the entry rules are very strict. The spokesperson for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Jens Laerke, explained that “one of the first rules of humanitarian action is” do no harm “and we want to be absolutely sure that all the necessary protocols are followed. entry into the country “.

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