SYDNEY/WELLINGTON, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Australia and New Zealand sent surveillance flights on Monday to assess damage in Tonga, isolated from the rest of the world after the eruption of a volcano that triggered a tsunami and blanketed the Pacific island with ash.
Australia's Minister for the Pacific Zed Seselja said initial reports suggested no mass casualties from Saturday's eruption and tsunami but Australian police had visited beaches and reported significant damage with "houses thrown around".
Read more: Scientists struggle to monitor Tonga volcano after massive eruption
"We know there is some significant damage, and know there is significant damage to resorts," he said in an interview with an Australian radio station, adding that Tonga's airport appeared to be in relatively good condition.
One British woman was reported missing, he said.
The surveillance flights would assess the situation in outer islands where communication is completely cut off.
Tonga's deputy head of mission in Australia, Curtis Tu'ihalangingie, asked for patience as Tonga's government decides its priorities for aid.
Tonga is concerned about the risk of aid deliveries spreading COVID-19 to the island, which is COVID-free.
"We don't want to bring in another wave - a tsunami of COVID-19," he told Reuters by telephone.
"When people see such a huge explosion they want to help," he said, but added Tonga diplomats were also concerned by some private fundraising efforts and urged the public to wait until a disaster relief fund was announced.
Any aid sent to Tonga would need to be quarantined, and it was likely no foreign personnel would be allowed to disembark aircraft, he said.
The eruption of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai volcano triggered a tsunami on the shores of Tonga and cut off phone and internet lines for the entire island.
International communication has been severely hampered by damage to an undersea cable, which could take more than a week to restore, and Australia and New Zealand were assisting with satellite calls, he said.
Telephone networks in Tonga have been restored but ash was posing a major health concern, contaminating drinking water.
An eruption occurs at the underwater volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai off Tonga, January 14, 2022 in this screen grab obtained from a social media video. Video recorded January 14, 2022. Tonga Geological Services/via REUTERS
"Most people are not aware the ash is toxic and bad for them to breath and they have to wear a mask," Tu'ihalangingie said.
The Haatafu Beach Resort, on the Hihifo peninsula, 21 km (13 miles) west of the capital Nukualofa, was completely wiped out, the owners said on Facebook.
The family that manages the resort had run for their lives through the bush to escape the tsunami, it said. The whole western coastline has been completely destroyed along with Kanukupolu village, the resort said.
British woman Angela Glover was missing after she was washed away by a wave when she and her husband, James, who own the Happy Sailor Tattoo in Nuku'alofa, had gone to get their dogs.
The husband managed to hold onto a tree but his wife, who runs a dog rescue shelter, and their dogs were swept away, New Zealand state broadcaster TVNZ reported.
The Red Cross said it was mobilising its network to respond to what it called the worst volcanic eruption the Pacific has experienced in decades.
Katie Greenwood, the Pacific head of delegation for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, told Reuters up to 80,000 people could have been affected by the tsunami.
The damage was centred along the western coast, where there are many resorts, and the waterfront of the capital, Nuku'alofa, the New Zealand High Commission in Tonga said. A thick layer of ash remained across the island.
Scientists were struggling to monitor the volcano, after the explosion destroyed its sea-level crater and drowned its mass, obscuring it from satellites. read more
Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai has erupted regularly over the past few decades but the impact of Saturday's eruption was felt as far away as Fiji, New Zealand, the United States and Japan. Two people drowned off a beach in Northern Peru due to high waves caused by the tsunami.
More than a day after the eruption, countries thousands of kilometres to the west have volcanic ash clouds over them, New Zealand forecaster WeatherWatch said.
Early data suggests the eruption was the biggest blast since Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines 30 years ago, New Zealand-based volcanologist Shane Cronin told Radio New Zealand.
"This is an eruption best witnessed from space," Cronin said.
Reporting by Praveen Menon and Kirsty Needham; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel and Philippa Fletcher
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
See the article here:
- New Zealand to train Ukrainians on L119 howitzer - DefenseNews.com - May 25th, 2022
- I thought I was imagining things: New Zealand readers on close encounters with city birds - The Guardian - May 25th, 2022
- New Zealand has just joined an overtly anti-China alliance are the economic risks worth it? - The Conversation Indonesia - May 25th, 2022
- Reader call-out: What are your best memories of New Zealand soap opera Shortland Street? - The Guardian - May 25th, 2022
- Price of New Zealand passport rises - 1News - May 25th, 2022
- More people leaving New Zealand than entering as young flee high cost of living - The Guardian - May 25th, 2022
- New Zealands promised action on climate is nothing more than a tottering babys first steps - The Guardian - May 25th, 2022
- How will the Australia-New Zealand relationship change? - RNZ - May 25th, 2022
- Livestreams of Mass Shootings: From Buffalo to New Zealand - The New York Times - May 25th, 2022
- WWF-New Zealand: New Tech Is A Win-Win For Conservation And Fisheries | Scoop News - Scoop - May 25th, 2022
- New Zealand participation at World Expo crucial to build 'soft power' globally - Stuff - May 25th, 2022
- New Zealand Coastal Shipping Boost Biggest Turnaround This Century | Scoop News - Scoop - May 25th, 2022
- New Zealand Leads Medical Breakthrough In Oxygen Therapy | Scoop News - Scoop - May 25th, 2022
- Kane Williamson Set To Join New Zealand Team Ahead Of Test Series Against England - Cricket Addictor - May 25th, 2022
- Unicef report finds if everyone consumed resources like New Zealand, we would need 2.7 Earths to keep up with consumption - Newshub - May 25th, 2022
- How the Bay of Plenty could be one of New Zealand's best food destinations - New Zealand Herald - May 25th, 2022
- Dukes balls criticised ahead of New Zealand's three-test series versus England - Stuff - May 25th, 2022
- England v New Zealand live stream and team news: Ben Stokes to start role as captain against Kane... - talkSPORT - May 25th, 2022
- Coroner to open investigation into death of New Zealander Joseph Day this week - New Zealand Herald - May 25th, 2022
- Sickness season: How is New Zealand tracking with non-Covid illnesses? - New Zealand Herald - May 25th, 2022
- Gregor Paul: How New Zealand's drop goal stigma is handing an advantage to the North - New Zealand Herald - May 25th, 2022
- Covid-19 update: 17 further deaths, 7800 cases reported in New Zealand - RNZ - May 25th, 2022
- Head of Qualitative Practice be the heartbeat of Qual, Auckland, New Zealand - B&T - May 25th, 2022
- Tall poppy syndrome and 'proudly local': The things Kiwi expats notice about New Zealand that tourists don't - Stuff - May 21st, 2022
- Obituary - David Ian Pool: The Father of Aotearoa New Zealand Demography - Stuff - May 21st, 2022
- New Zealand battered by machine gun tornado - PerthNow - May 21st, 2022
- 30 years on... The unveiling of a New Zealand sporting great - Stuff - May 21st, 2022
- Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022: New Zealand announce 18-strong athletics team - New Zealand Herald - May 21st, 2022
- MMMBop hitmakers Hanson to play one New Zealand show in November - Stuff - May 21st, 2022
- New Zealand overtourism: Residents invite tourists to 'tread lightly and leave no trace' - Euronews - May 21st, 2022
- Former New Zealand Women Cricketer Katey Martin Reveals Reason Behind Early Retirement - Cricketnmore - May 21st, 2022
- Special Ukraine visa: Jump in the number of people seeking refuge in NZ - RNZ - May 21st, 2022
- Former lock picker and hacker to represent New Zealand at global cyber security event - Newshub - May 21st, 2022
- We need to spend billions replacing old hospitals - so who should pay? - Stuff - May 21st, 2022
- Massive 6.7 magnitude earthquake hits near New Zealand and Australia prompting Tsunami fears... - The US Sun - May 21st, 2022
- Easy ride to mental health - New Zealand News - New Zealand Herald - May 21st, 2022
- Snowfall warnings as severe 'winter blast' bears down on New Zealand - Stuff - May 21st, 2022
- New Zealand's Ardern tests positive for COVID-19 - May 17th, 2022
- New Zealand shooting survivor says violence achieved nothing - NPR - May 17th, 2022
- New Zealand to help pay for cleaner cars to reduce emissions - The Associated Press - May 17th, 2022
- New Zealand banks predict 20% drop in house prices over next year - The Guardian - May 17th, 2022
- Alarmed by Solomon Islands-China pact, New Zealand finds its voice on security - WION - May 17th, 2022
- FIRST READING: Why the world hates Canada for its dairy policy - National Post - May 17th, 2022
- The Russian invasion of Ukraine made everyone nervous, upending trade patterns for exporting countries like New Zealand - The Conversation Indonesia - May 17th, 2022
- Bangladesh to play in T20I tri-series in New Zealand before T20 World Cup - ESPNcricinfo - May 17th, 2022
- Limerick-born 'titan' of New Zealand investment industry dies - The Irish Times - May 17th, 2022
- Will the budget be another missed opportunity to get more New Zealanders out of their cars? - The Conversation Indonesia - May 17th, 2022
- NZ edges towards grim milestone of 1000 Covid deaths. Who and where has it hit hardest? - New Zealand Herald - May 17th, 2022
- New Zealand's Southland District Council Wants Public Input on Its Gambling Policy - Casino.Org News - May 17th, 2022
- New Zealands dairy industry should stop using Mori culture to pretend its sustainable - The Guardian - May 17th, 2022
- Youngsters Potts and Brook in line for first Test call-ups in England's squad to face NZ - iNews - May 17th, 2022
- The rheumatic fever question: Is New Zealand finally tackling the disease or did Covid restrictions cause a brief lull? - New Zealand Herald - May 17th, 2022
- JOLT To Roll Out Free And Fast Electric Vehicle Charging Network To Cities Across New Zealand | Scoop News - Scoop - May 17th, 2022
- What's Streaming This June On Shudder In New Zealand | Scoop News - Scoop - May 17th, 2022
- Ovarian cancer: The least researched and one of the deadliest in New Zealand - Newshub - May 17th, 2022
- Report sparked by Olympians tragic death highlights culture of medals over wellbeing - Fox Sports - May 17th, 2022
- Coronavirus: Modeller believes around half of New Zealand's population has been infected with COVID-19 - Newshub - May 17th, 2022
- Agri-reliant countries must pave way for cutting agriculture emissions, says New Zealand expert - TheJournal.ie - May 17th, 2022
- Sealord plan to close seamounts in New Zealand Exclusive Economic Zone - New Zealand Herald - May 17th, 2022
- The problem with New Zealand's protection gap - The Spinoff - May 17th, 2022
- Weather: Storm over Tasmania pushing in cold and blustery winds to New Zealand - New Zealand Herald - May 17th, 2022
- Vodafone New Zealand Disappointed In FibreX Judgment And Intends To Appeal Both Conviction And Fine | Scoop News - Scoop - May 17th, 2022
- James Anderson has 'more to give to the game' as he targets England Test recall - ESPNcricinfo - May 17th, 2022
- New Zealand's growth forecast to stall completely in 2023 - BNZ - RNZ - May 17th, 2022
- New Zealand opens CPTPP dispute with Canada over dairy access - New Zealand Herald - May 17th, 2022
- Jacinda Ardern reminds us why New Zealand should be suspended from the Five Eyes alliance - Washington Examiner - April 22nd, 2022
- Cheesegate 2.0? Air New Zealand to switch up cheese and crackers in Koru Hour - Stuff - April 22nd, 2022
- US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand Issue Advisory on Russian State-Sponsored and Criminal Cyber Threats to Critical Infrastructure - JD Supra - April 22nd, 2022
- New Zealand family erects headstone in shape of iPhone for late daughter - New York Post - April 22nd, 2022
- First 'Carbonzero' Certified Butter set to Hit New Zealand Shelves - Dairy Herd Management - April 22nd, 2022
- New Zealand Rugby appoint more women to board - RNZ - April 22nd, 2022
- 'Allies, not friends': Have NZ and Australia drifted apart? - New Zealand Herald - April 22nd, 2022
- Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission urges anglers, boaters to help prevent spread of invasive New Zealand mudsnails - WGAL Susquehanna Valley Pa. - April 22nd, 2022
- New Zealand scientists find tremor link that could predict volcanic eruptions - The Guardian - April 22nd, 2022
- Covid-19: Rod Jackson - was New Zealand's response to the pandemic proportionate? - New Zealand Herald - April 22nd, 2022
- NZX50 Index eases 0.3%, Air New Zealand shares and rights soar - Stuff - April 22nd, 2022
- The Front Page podcast: Inside the scandal rocking Arise church - New Zealand Herald - April 22nd, 2022
- Aloha Dance Club to showcase island dances from New Zealand to Hawaii - OSU - The Lantern - April 22nd, 2022
- New Zealand star Dave Letele praises 'amazing' Katie Taylor: 'I think she's great for the sport' - dazn.com - April 22nd, 2022
- M'ohi Nui exhibition explores the Tahitian diaspora in New Zealand - New Zealand Herald - April 22nd, 2022