Eighty-four percent of Tonga’s population was affected by the ashfall and tsunami that hit the country, the Tonga government said in its second update since the January 15 volcanic eruption.
Sixty-two residents of remote Mango Island have had to relocate to neighboring Nomuka Island after losing their homes and belongings, and the government has warned they may have to relocate to the main island again due food and water shortages.
The government also released the names of two Tongan nationals who died in the tsunami: Lataimaumi Lauaki, a 49-year-old woman from Nomuka; and Telai Tutu’ila, a 65-year-old man from Mango Island. They were buried in the days following the disaster.
In addition to the three deaths, including 50-year-old Briton Angela Glover, several people were injured, the government said, including one person in Ha’apai who needed emergency medical treatment, eight injured on the Nomuka Island, four minor injuries. injured on the island of Fonoi and two slightly injured on the island of Tungua.
A field hospital has been set up in Nomuka, where the tsunami washed away the health centre.
The government said communication between the islands, which was cut off when the eruption damaged the undersea communications cable, was “an acute challenge”, although some international calls are now possible.
“A New Zealand relief flight has arrived with much-needed telecommunications equipment to restore a limited internet connection,” the statement said.
The ship that will attempt to repair the undersea communications cable, severed by the eruption and tsunami, is expected to reach Tonga “in the coming days”, the government said.
“Although there has been no further volcanic activity, shipping challenges remain as fallout on the ocean surface damages ships.”
The National Emergency Operations Center said water was their main request and they had already distributed almost 60,000 litres. But the government said “the water supply has been tested: groundwater and clean water are safe to drink”.
Bulk water supplies and relief stores, donated by New Zealand, arrived last week, with more expected to arrive from Australia early this week aboard HMAS Adelaide.
Support has also been pledged by the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Japan and China.
“Her Majesty’s Government is deeply grateful to the international community for its generous and timely assistance in response to this unprecedented event,” the Tonga government said.