Tonga: Volcanic Eruption - Flash Update # 3 (As of 18 January 2022)
The United Nations Satellite Centre (UNOSAT) has released a preliminary assessment report and has analyzed five areas/islands. Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai; Nuku’alofa; Uoleva; Uiha and Nomuka. The Pleiades satellite image acquired on 16 January 2022 shows that the caldera of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai has collapsed and the island has lost a substantial percentage of its initial surface of 285ha. Damage can also be seen in Nuku’alofa, Uoleva, Nomuka and Uiha with mainly inundated areas and zones with ash deposits. The analysis can be viewed and downloaded at: https://www.unitar.org/maps/map/3433.
The European Union activated its Emergency Management Service of the EU Earth Observations System Copernicus and initial results are available online under https://emergency.copernicus.eu/mapping/list-of-components/EMSR558 and under https://emergency.copernicus.eu/mapping/system/files/components/EMSR558_AOI02_GRA_PRODUCT_r1_RTP01_v1.pdf Yesterday, Australia and New Zealand carried out surveillance flights over Tonga. The pictures are currently being analyzed, will first be shared with the Tongan Government, and should then be available shortly.
The full extent of damage is yet to be fully quantified. The eruption broke the underwater communications cable, leaving most parts of Tonga without communication and internet access. A ship is underway from Papua New Guinea to fix the cable. It is feared that the rupture of this cable is close to the volcano, making it potentially dangerous to restore. Anticipating an extended period of communications challenges. Communication means within Tonga are gradually being restored.
Tonga is also negotiating with broadband satellite operator Kacific to access a satellite internet connection. An initial assessment from the Government of Tonga is that 100 houses were damaged and 50 destroyed in Tongatapu.
No evacuation centres are open in Tongatapu, the people who were displaced (numbers not confirmed as of now) are staying with extended families. There are 89 people in evacuation centres in ‘Eua. Information from outer islands is still very scarce. In Ha’apai and Vava’u islands, communication lines remain down and concerns exist regarding damage to low lying island in this group. Three deaths have been recorded so far.
Preliminary information from the Tongan Ministry of Agriculture indicates that the damage in the agricultural sector, and particularly of root crops, is less severe than initially feared.
Due to thick ash cover is thicker than anticipated (between 5 and 10 cm) and will need more time to be cleared away. Planned relief flights (from Australia and New Zealand, for the time being) are on stand-by. It is hoped the airport will be operational by 20 January 2022. New Zealand is bringing survey and diving teams to inspect changes to the seabed in shipping channels and ports. These teams will also assess wharf infrastructure to assure the future delivery of aid and support from the sea.
The Tongan Government has advised that further updated needs and requests for assistance will be available by the end of this week. Download document