Tonga: The UN stands ready to provide support after volcano eruption and tsunami

15 January 2022

Secretary-General António Guterres expressed his deep concern after reports of a tsunami and ash affecting Tonga following the eruption of an undersea volcano near the Pacific nation.

The UN chief also aired his concern about the tsunami warnings that have been issued in other countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the United States.

“The United Nations offices in the Pacific are closely monitoring the situation and are on standby to provide support if requested. The Secretary-General is grateful to countries that have already offered their support”, UN spokesperson Farhan Haq said in a statement published on Saturday.

According to the Tonga Geological Services, a massive underwater volcano erupted just before sundown on Friday with plumes reaching more than 12 miles above sea level. A cloud of ash and steam reached about 150 miles across, an event captured by satellite images that have been shared by various meteorological agencies.

Update as of 16 January 2022

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) confirmed on Sunday that a tsunami wave of 1.2 metres hit the coastline and around uku’alofa causing yet to be detailed damage to buildings and infrastructure.

Currently, communications with Tonga are a challenge as regular phone lines are down, the internet cable from Fiji to Tonga seems to have been damaged, and satellite phones are only working intermittently.

Initial information received by the Office indicates that the main island Tongatapu, with the capital Nuku’alofa, is covered with some 2 cm of ash and there is concern about water accessibility.

No injuries or deaths are currently reported but a person is allegedly missing (a member of the coast guard).

OCHA is working to establish lines of communication with Tonga’s National Emergency Management Office (NEMO) which is leading the assessment and potential response – in close cooperation with the Tonga Red Cross Society.

 

 

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