Volcanic Eruption and Tsunami Spur Emergency Response Efforts in Tonga

A volcanic explosion and resulting tsunami originating near the island nation of Tonga caused extensive damage after waves inundated low-lying communities, causing at least three deaths.

The Hunga Tonga–Hunga Haʻapai volcano erupted on Jan. 15, and aerial images began to emerge Tuesday, depicting entire communities blanketed in ash. Search and rescue operations are continuing on the islands, where communication remains down. An underwater cable that connects communications to the region was severed in the blast, and could take weeks to repair. Damage to the sea port and the airport in Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, is also complicating entry of aid to region.

The primary health concerns during volcanic eruptions are similar to wildfires, and include respiratory distress, eye and skin irritation, contaminated water supply, the intensification of chronic illnesses when access to medicine is compromised.

Direct Relief staff are in communication with regional partners and have reached out to Tonga’s Ministry of Health to offer assistance if needed.

Direct Relief has supported Tonga’s Ministry of Health in the past, including during the aftermath of Cyclone Gita in 2018. The storm exceeded 140 miles per hour, making it the strongest storm to make landfall in Tonga in 60 years. Direct Relief provided surgical supplies, essential medications, and other requested aid to the Ministry of Health during that time, and stands ready to support again if needed.

This post was originally published on Direct Relief.