The eruption of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai volcano on 15 January 2022

Tupou and her family experienced the terrifying eruption of the Hunga Ha’apai volcano on January 15, 2022. The day of the eruption was one that is etched into Tupou's memory forever.

60-year-old Tupou lives in Tonga with her husband, son, daughter, son-in-law and grandson near the beach. Credit: Nicole Chehine.


60-year-old Tupou is one of the thousands of people affected by the volcano and tsunami. She lives in Tonga with her husband, son, daughter, son-in-law and grandson on a house not far from the beach. Tupou was eagerly anticipating the impending birth of her grandson when the volcano erupted.

On the day of the eruption, she heard loud booms like cannons coming from out at sea. The Hunga Ha’apai volcano that had been smoking for days was now unleashing plumes of smoke.

The waves began to swell abnormally, sending shockwaves of fear through the community. Tupou, like countless others in Tonga, hurried to higher ground, seeking safety from the impending disaster.

“It was like a spur in the moment. I’ve never seen a tsunami before or experienced a tsunami before.”  

Tupou recalled

More than a year on, many homes remain destroyed by the devastating eruption and subsequent tsunami that engulfed the island nation. It will take years for the most vulnerable communities to rebuild from the disaster. 

How Caritas Tonga supported Tupou

In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, Caritas Tonga supported Tupou with water purifying tablets, blankets, food and other essential supplies after the disaster to help recover from the disaster. This support was invaluable during the critical days immediately after the disaster. 

Tupou was also supported with psychosocial support to prepare and be ready for future disasters. A trained professional counsellor helped Tupou and her community deal with the trauma of the tsunami and also to prepare for any other disasters.

The need for a new evacuation centre

As one of the countries on the frontline of climate change, Tonga is at risk of tropical cyclones and storms, tsunamis, volcanic activity, and drought. The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai eruption is an example of how communities least responsible for the effects of climate change are most affected by them. 


Tupou, her family and her community in Tonga are in desperate need for an evacuation centre, where they can seek safety and be better prepared for the next disaster.

The role of psychosocial support

A focus of Caritas Tonga is providing psychosocial support due to the trauma experienced by people like Tupou and her family during and after a disaster. The support can help families cope with the trauma associated with surviving a disaster and the loss of homes and livelihoods.

Together, we can make a difference in the lives of those affected by disasters.

Your support can help go towards critical needs including:

Building an evacuation centre.

Constructing a warehouse to store emergency supplies.

Providing counselling to support families recovering from trauma.

Provide support for people like Tupou

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