Eruption of volcano leaves Tonga in dire need for support

The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai undersea volcano, which erupted on Saturday 15 January, has left the people of Tonga with no way to communicate with the rest of the world and in dire need for humanitarian support.  

The Tongan Government has since declared a State of Emergency until Sunday 13 February and the number of casualties reported from the eruption remains at three people. It is estimated that 84 percent of Tonga’s population (around 85,000) have been affected by the disaster and there are growing concerns over the fate of residents on some of the smaller islands, where many homes were destroyed. 

Impacts of tsunami in Fiji. Photo credit: Caritas Fiji.

“This volcanic eruption was up there with the likes of Krakatoa in terms of scale, so we remain extremely concerned about the impacts of the eruption and tsunami in Tonga. Unfortunately, as the telecommunications are still down we don’t know how bad the damage really is yet,” said Damaris Pfendt, Caritas Australia’s Pacific Humanitarian Coordinator.   

The Tongan Government has stated that "immediate assistance" is needed, as the country deals with the fallout of the massive volcanic eruption.  

The Australian Government has responded to requests for assistance with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Department of Defence, coordinating critical humanitarian supplies for disaster relief. The Australian Government will work in partnership with other Pacific neighbours, including New Zealand, to support Tonga in a COVID-safe way. 

Caritas Australia has been working to restore communications with local partner, Caritas Tonga, to better assess the situation on the ground and determine the most urgent needs.  

Despite the difficulty in communicating with the country, supplies have been pre-positioned in warehouses on the island. These include hygiene kits and purification tablets for water.  

Caritas Tonga is also working with the National Emergency Management Office (NEMO) and Tongan National Youth Council to distribute stock. 

Caritas Tonga staff unloading supplies. Photo credit: Caritas Tonga.

Supplies have been released from the Tongatapu warehouse

250 hygiene kits (out of a total of 600 in the Tongatapu stores), 414 buckets, 70 jerry cans and 3 water bladders have been released.

Supplies have been distributed in 3 villages of Hihifo in Western Tongatapu

including Ha’atafu, as well as ‘Eua, and to the people who have been relocated from Atata.

In Ha’apai there is a shortage of jerry cans (used to receive water from the ships)

NEMO’s stock have all been distributed, so they will start now using the Caritas prepositioned supplies. 

To provide support for Tonga, please donate to Caritas Australia’s Pacific Emergency Appeal.