Tonga volcano has killed at least 2 people, says Japan
Japanese foreign minister says Tongan navy ships assessing damages on remote islands after communications snag
Japan on Tuesday said at least two people were killed during the undersea volcanic eruption around the Tonga island nation in South Pacific.
Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said local authorities in Tonga are “close to determining the scale of damage” caused by the disaster, Tokyo-based Kyodo News reported.
The volcano, located 65 kilometers (40 miles) north of capital Nuku'alofa on the main Tongatapu island, had begun spewing ash, steam, and gas since this Friday morning.
It badly hit the communications lines on the sporadic island nation.
Tonga, home to just over 105,000 people, is an archipelago nation of more than 170 South Pacific islands, many of which are uninhabited but covered with tropical rainforest.
Hayashi said the disaster affected dozens of houses that collapsed or were partly destroyed.
“Conditions on most of Tonga's remote islands are not known since communication cables have been broken, prompting Tongan navy ships to head for the areas,” Hayashi said.
The volcano triggered a tsunami that also hit parts of Japan on Sunday.
Australia, New Zealand sending aid
On Monday, Australia and New Zealand sent two aircraft to assess the damage, and New Zealand was expected to deliver relief on Tuesday.
New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said on Monday her country is ready to send aid to disaster-struck Pacific country, however, the main runway needs to be cleared before sending an airplane.
“Following the successful surveillance and reconnaissance flight of a New Zealand P-3K2 Orion on Monday, imagery, and details have been sent to relevant authorities in Tonga, to aid in decisions about what support is most needed,” said Nanaia Mahuta in a statement issued from her office.
“However images show ashfall on the Nuku'alofa airport runway that must be cleared before a C-130 Hercules flight with humanitarian assistance can land,” said Nanaia Mahuta, adding that two ships of the Royal New Zealand Navy will depart today.
On Monday, Australia's Foreign Minister and Minister for Women Marise Payne also announced $1 million in humanitarian assistance for Tonga and said Australia is ready to send more assistance.
"Will provide an initial package of $1m to meet urgent humanitarian requests from Tonga & is ready to provide further assistance in partnership with (Tonga)'s Government," Payne said on Twitter.
*Contribution by Islamuddin Sajid.