Tonga estimates damage after devastating volcanic eruption and tsunami

An underwater volcano erupted violently, spewing large plumes of volcanic ash into the sky and sparking a tsunami that hit Tonga.

1 minute & 39 seconds read time

On January 15, an underwater volcano several miles off the coast of Tonga erupted, causing the islands to be blanked in toxic volcanic ash.

Tonga estimates damage after devastating volcanic eruption and tsunami 02

An underwater volcano located 40 miles north of the capital of Tonga erupted, causing a massive plume of toxic smoke to be shot up into the atmosphere, reaching an altitude of 12 miles. The eruption immediately spawned a four-foot tsunami that hit the capital of Tonga. Additionally, the eruption knocked out most means of communications with the outside world as an underwater cable has been severed, which may take a week to restore.

Australia and New Zealand have sent surveillance flights over to Tonga to assess the damage, and reports indicate that there isn't mass causalities but significant damage to houses and resorts. On top of the physical damage from the tsunami, volcanic ash is blanketing the region and contaminating drinking water. Most residents aren't aware that the ash is toxic, which poses as a major health concern for many, said Tonga's deputy head of mission in Australia, Curtis Tu'ihalangingie.

Read more: Volcanic eruption causes big tsunami to hit Tonga knocking it offline

"Most people are not aware the ash is toxic and bad for them to breathe and they have to wear a mask," said Tu'ihalangingie.

Read more: Tonga volcano eruption caught on video from space, triggers tsunami

Notably, Tonga is concerned about the risk of aid deliveries causing a COVID-19 outbreak on the island that is currently COVID-19 free. Tu'ihalangingie has requested that everyone applies some patience when it comes to aid as the Tongan government puts together a priority list for required aid.

"When people see such a huge explosion they want to help. We don't want to bring in another wave - a tsunami of Covid-19," Tu'ihalangingie told Reuters.

To give support to Tonga, check out this GoFundMe page here.

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