Tonga says facing ‘unprecedented disaster’

TEHRAN, Jan. 19 (MNA) – The Tonga government says the Pacific island nation is facing an “unprecedented disaster” after a massive volcanic eruption triggered a tsunami and blanketed parts of the country of 100,000 people in thick volcanic ash.

In its first statement since the undersea volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai erupted on Saturday, the prime minister’s office late on Tuesday confirmed the deaths of at least three people, including a British woman, Al-Jazeera reported.

“As a result of the eruption, a volcanic mushroom plume was released reaching the stratosphere and extending radially covering all Tonga Island, generating tsunami waves rising up to 15 meters (49 feet), hitting the west coasts of Tongatapu Islands, ‘Eua and Ha’apai Islands,” the statement said.

“Due to the severity of the damage observed”, the government said additional rescue teams had been sent to Mango, Fonoifua, and Nomuka islands.

All houses on Mango – where a distress signal had been detected – had been destroyed and only two remained standing on Fonoifua, while there was extensive damage on Nomuka, it said.

Tongan navy ships were being sent to affected islands with urgent supplies of water and food, while evacuation efforts from the worst-hit areas were also underway.

The eruption was the largest since Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991, with the cataclysmic bang heard in Fiji more than 750km (466 miles) away.

RHM/PR

News Code 183050

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