Aotearoa New Zealand
responds to tsunami in Tonga

Support and aroha for our Pacific neighbours

On Saturday, 15 January, a powerful volcanic eruption off the coast of Tonga triggered tsunami waves across the Pacific.

The eruption of the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano was so powerful that it was recorded around the world, and the subsequent tsunami flooded Pacific coastlines from Japan to United States.

In nearby Tonga, the deadly tsunami caused destruction and devastation, and cut off communication with the small Pacific island nation, making it extremely difficult to understand the full extent of the impact of the disaster. Worldwide, organisations like ChildFund are still waiting on more information, as communications with our Tongan partners remains challenging.

In New Zealand, the Council for International Development (CID) is working with the New Zealand Government to co-ordinate our collective response to the tsunami in Tonga.

Emergency Response

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The following is from CID’s recent situation report, dated 18 January, 2022. For more information, please contact the team at CID by emailing office@cid.org.nz.

Here’s what we know so far:

We are aware of one fatality. The British woman, Angela Glover. This is a tragedy for her family, and our thoughts are with all her loved ones in Tonga and the UK.

Electricity and local mobile phone networks have been restored on Tongatapu. Power connection is not yet stable.

International and inter-island calls are still not possible due to the damage to the undersea cable. Tonga Cable and other entities are actively working to repair the damage. There is still no timeframe available for when communications will be restored.

Tonga’s main airport Fua’amotu International Airport is undamaged but heavy ashfall is being cleared and inhibits the airport from being fully operational.

The Tongan Navy has reported major damage in the Ha’apai Islands. Waves were estimated to be 5-10 meters in height and reaching 500 meters inland. 

New Zealand government response

The NZDF P3 Orion successfully completed aerial surveillance yesterday, which was shared with the Tongan Government.

MFAT is working with Digicel and Spark to facilitate the transport of satellite equipment to support communications in the interim until communications can be fully restored.

Pre-positioned supplies held in country by CID members like Caritas Aotearoa NZ and Caritas Tonga have been released. These supplies include a water purification unit, jerry cans, hygiene kits, buckets and water taps.

Other Pacific Island updates

Tsunami alerts have been cancelled in neighbouring Pacific Island nations. However, volcanic ash continues to disrupt some flights.

In Fiji, the Southern Lau Group has sustained damage following tsunami waves. Video footage shows tsunami waves coming approximately 50 meters inland, destroying some houses. An Initial Damage Assessment (IDA) team is scheduled to deploy via the Fiji Government owned sea vessels this week.

The Southern Lau Islands could be be facing water and food scarcity, some displacement and housing rebuild needs and psychosocial needs. There is also some concern regarding health issues relating to heavy ash fall however the extent of ash fall is not yet known.

Donate to help families in Tonga

We are encouraging members of the public to donate to the New Zealand Red Cross, who is coordinating an emergency response programme in Tonga.

Click here to donate now.