Alarming pictures of Tonga damage raise fears of more deaths
Christian Fernsby | ▼ January 18, 2022
Alarming photographs taken from the air have revealed the full extent of damage caused by the massive volcanic eruption and tsunami in Tonga on Saturday.
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Images taken by New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) reconnaissance flights show scenes of devastation on the country's small outer islands, said Tonga’s deputy head of mission in Australia, Curtis Tu’ihalangingie.
An entire village was destroyed on Mango island and numerous buildings are missing on nearby Atata island, raising fears of more deaths and injuries.
The NZDF images were posted unofficially on a Facebook site and confirmed by Tu’ihalangingie.
"People panic, people run and get injuries," Mr Tu’ihalangingie told Reuters. "Possibly there will be more deaths and we just pray that is not the case."
Tonga police told the New Zealand High Commission the confirmed death toll stood at two, but with communications in the South Pacific island nation cut, the true extent of casualties was not clear.
Australia's minister for the Pacific, Zed Seselja, said Tongan officials were hoping to evacuate people from the isolated, low-lying Ha'apai islands group and other outer islands where conditions were "very tough, we understand, with many houses being destroyed in the tsunami."
The United Nations had earlier reported a distress signal was detected in Ha'apai, where Mango is located. The Tongan navy reported the area was hit by waves estimated to be 5 to 10 metres (15-30 feet) high, said the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Atata and Mango are between about 50 and 70km from the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano, which sent tsunami waves across the Pacific Ocean and was heard some 2,300km (1,430 miles) away in New Zealand when it erupted on Saturday.
Atata has a population of about 100 people and Mango around 50.
"It is very alarming to see the wave possibly went through Atata from one end to the other," said Mr Tu’ihalangingie. ■
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