“Houses thrown around”: Australian police reports significant damage eruption, tsunami in Tonga

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Damage in the tsunami-hit Tonga following volcanic eruptions was assessed through surveillance flights from New Zealand and Australia on Monday, CNA reported.

The eruption and tsunami on Saturday caused no mass casualties, said Australia’s Minister for the Pacific Zed Seselja, citing initial reports.

‘Significant damage’ was however noted by Australian police who went to beaches and reported “houses thrown around.”

“We know there is some significant damage, and know there is significant damage to resorts,” he told an Australian radio station.

In addition, Tonga’s airport seemed to be in good shape, he said.

He said one British woman disappeared after the disaster.

According to Curtis Tu’ihalangingie, Tonga’s deputy head of mission in Australia, the surveillance flights can return Monday night. Patience is being asked as Tonga’s government is yet to set aid priorities.

The COVID-19-free island is also worried that the deliveries might bring the virus into the island.

“We don’t want to bring in another wave – a tsunami of COVID-19,” he told a phone interview with Reuters.

“When people see such a huge explosion they want to help,” he said.

In addition, he said that diplomats on the island are also raising some concerns from private efforts and encouraged people to wait for the announcement of the disaster aid fund.

He said that quarantine will be applied to any aid delivered to the island. There will also be no foreign individual to be permitted to disembark the aid from the aircraft.

The tsunami hit the shores of Tonga following the eruption of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano.

Phone and internet lines were cut off on the island and international communication has been affected as the undersea cable was damaged. The restoration process will take over a week, he said.

Meanwhile, the priorities for aid are being decided by the island’s cabinet.