The toll from the eruption of a huge undersea volcano in Tonga remains unclear with Australia and New Zealand sending surveillance flights to assess the damage.
The eruption of the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano on Saturday prompted tsunami warnings and evacuation orders in neighbouring countries and caused huge waves on several South Pacific islands, where images on social media showed waves crashing against homes on the shores.
The eruption cut the internet to Tonga, leaving friends and family members around the world anxiously trying to get in touch to find out if there were any injuries.
Even government websites and other official sources remained without updates on Sunday afternoon.
The NZ Defence Force tweeted that an Orion aircraft left Auckland on Monday morning to assist in an initial impact assessment of the area and low-lying islands.
An Australian surveillance flight was due to leave Queensland’s Amberley Air Base at 2am on Monday but will now be delayed until the ash cloud caused by the eruption subsides.
A second plane is also on standby to assist Tonga, at the request of their government.
Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Zed Seselja, said Tonga’s contact with the rest of the world had been disrupted by damage to an undersea cable.
‘My understanding is that communications within Tonga are to some extent operating,’ he said. ‘It’s the international communications through the cable that was affected that is causing some difficulties.’
He said Australia was preparing to send a significant amount of humanitarian aid and the HMAS Adelaide would likely also be deployed.
For more information, go to www.abc.net.au/news/2022-01-17/tonga-volcano-surveillance-flights-tsunami-warning-damage/100760394