“Extensive damage” in the Tonga islands after the tsunami


International agencies tasked with assessing damage to the Tonga Islands from the powerful tsunami-triggered underwater eruption, which killed at least one person, reported “extensive damage” on Tuesday.< /strong>

“From what little information we have, the scale of devastation could be immense, especially on the most isolated islands,” said Katie Greenwood, of the Federation International Red Cross.

The first estimates of the extent of the crisis were transmitted by satellite telephone or established thanks to reconnaissance flights over a country cut off from the Internet network after the rupture of a cable.

No human toll has been revealed but the body of a Briton swept away by a wave of tsunami has been found, her family announced. At least one other person is missing in the archipelago.

The first confirmed victim is a 50-year-old woman, Angela Gover, out for a run with her dog and reported missing shortly after the tidal wave .

“Today my family sadly learned that my sister Angela's body has been found,” her brother Nick Eleini said after being notified by the victim's husband, James Glover.

“James was able to hang on to a tree for quite a long time, but Angela couldn't do the same and was taken away with the dog,” he told the British daily The Guardian.

< p>Australia and New Zealand, which sent Orion reconnaissance planes over Tonga the day before, have aid ships ready for deployment.

The capital Nuku'alofa was covered with two cm of ash and volcanic dust, describes the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs of the United Nations (OCHA) in an emergency report. Electricity has been restored in some areas of the city. The local telephone network is also restored, but international communications are interrupted.

Rocks and debris were also swept inland by the tsunami, damaging the Nuku'alofa waterfront.

Water a priority< /p>

But the agency is particularly concerned about the situation on low-lying Mango Island, where “significant property damage” was spotted and a distress signal was triggered, as well as on Fonoi Island.

OCHA reports “considerable damage” to the western beaches of the main island, Tongatapu, “with several beach resorts and/or houses destroyed and/or severely damaged”.

A finding corroborated by a small Australian police contingent stationed in the archipelago which provided a “quite concerning” initial assessment of the Western Beaches area, according to Australian Minister for International Development Zed Seselja.

Satellite images released by the United Nations Satellite Center (UNOSAT) showed the aftermath of the eruption and tsunami on the small island of Nomuka, one of the closest to the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai volcano.

According to UNOSAT, 41 of the 104 structures spotted in the cloud-free zone were damaged and almost all were covered in ash.

The country's airport hoped to clear its runway on Monday , underlines the OCHA, in order to allow the landing of the Australian military planes C-130.

HMAS Adelaide, from the Australian fleet, HMNZS Wellington and HMNZS Aotearoa, from the New Zealand fleet, have been deployed to Tonga, which is three days sailing away.

Due to the risk pollution by volcanic residues, water should be a priority, the New Zealand Minister of Defense said on Tuesday.

France, “neighboring the Kingdom of Tonga” via the overseas collectivity -sea of ​​Wallis and Futuna, said it was “ready to respond to the most urgent needs of the population”, according to a press release.

The main aid agencies, which intervene quickly to provide emergency humanitarian aid, said they were stranded, unable to contact local staff.

Last week's volcanic eruption was the largest recorded in decades: a huge mushroom of smoke and of ash 30 km high, followed immediately by the outbreak of a tsunami.

Waves of 1.2 meters swept through Nuku'alofa, where residents fled to higher ground, leaving behind flooded homes as rocks and ash fell from the sky.

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