Caritas Australia remembers Tonga volcanic eruption and tsunami

Sunday 15 January marks one year since the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai undersea volcano violently erupted, releasing billowing plumes of ash, water vapour and sulphur dioxide 57km into the atmosphere – the highest ever recorded from a volcano. 


The blast registered as the most violent eruption anywhere in the world since Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991 and was heard across the ocean in Alaska. The resulting tsunami flooded homes in Tonga and the waves even reached as far as Russia and Chile. 


The eruption impacted an estimated 84 per cent of the population of Tonga. Many homes in coastal areas were inundated with seawater and some small islands were completely flooded. Telecommunications were completely cut off for more than one month. 


“Caritas Tonga was one of the first humanitarian agencies to respond, just 48 hours after the eruption. We distributed emergency relief in coordination with the local government and our partners,” said Malialosa Tapueluelu, Caritas Tonga’s Project Officer.  


The humanitarian response included distribution of hygiene kits, buckets and jerry cans, kitchen supplies, blankets and water purification kits to affected communities, and ongoing work to purify water, provide psychological support with a counselling team and distribute crucial COVID-19 supplies to communities with community transmission. Now the focus is on long-term recovery and resilience.  


“With our long-term recovery response, we are focussing on psychosocial empowerment of the communities in the most affected areas. We are also looking at retrofitting and renovating some of our halls and churches to function as admission and immigration centres for future disasters.” 


“Since May 2022 we have also been collecting food crop donations to distribute to areas where plantations were severely impacted. Since that time there has been little rain so it has been hard for communities to recover, and we have been distributing fresh food crops to these severely impacted small island communities instead of tinned food, and we will continue this until we see that their plantations have started to recover.” 


Caritas Australia continues to work in partnership with Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand and Caritas Tonga to respond to the eruption and help communities recover and build their resilience to future disasters.  


Visit or call 1800 024 413 toll free to provide much needed support to Pacific countries by donating to our Pacific Emergency Appeal.      


CONTACT: Jessica Stone /