Tonga volcano eruption caused ‘significant damage’

TEHRAN, Jan. 16 (MNA) – New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says Tonga’s capital Nuku’alofa suffered “significant” damage from a powerful volcanic eruption that triggered a tsunami, but there were no reports of injuries or deaths as of yet.

Ardern’s comments on Sunday came as Pacific nations and humanitarian groups struggled to establish communications with Tonga, a day after the disasters cut telephone and internet connections, leaving its 105,000 residents virtually unreachable, Aljazeera reported.

Ardern said her government has now made contact with the New Zealand embassy in Nuku’alofa.

“The tsunami has had a significant impact on the foreshore on the northern side of Nuku’alofa with boats and large boulders washed ashore,” she told reporters.

“Nuku’alofa is covered in a thick film of volcanic dust but otherwise conditions are calm and stable.”

She said there were no official reports of injuries or deaths in Tonga as of yet, although communications were limited and contact has not been established with coastal areas beyond the capital.

She added that New Zealand was not able to send a military surveillance flight over Tonga because the ash cloud was 63,000 feet (19,000 meters) high but they hoped to send the flight on Monday, followed by supply planes and navy ships.

New Zealand’s Defence Force said in a tweet that it was ready to send a reconnaissance aircraft “as soon as atmospheric conditions allow”.

The Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano has erupted regularly over the past few decades but Saturday’s eruption was so loud that residents in parts of Fiji, which is 800 km (500 miles) away, and in New Zealand, which is 2,300km (1,400 miles) away, said they heard it.

Satellite images captured the volcanic eruption as the explosion sent plumes of smoke into the air and about 20 kilometers (12 miles) above sea level.

The sky over Tonga was darkened by the ash.

RHM/PR

News Code 182933

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