• The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Taa’pai volcano is simmering down, but it left a shroud of ash over the mainland, floodwaters inland and caused damage to infrastructure, particularly in the small islands.
• Clean drinking water supply and environmental clean-up are among the priority humanitarian needs initially expressed.
• UNICEF is mobilizing emergency supplies prepositioned in the Australian humanitarian warehouse in Brisbane and the UNICEF warehouse in Fiji for immediate deployment to Tonga.
Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs
Three days after the explosive eruption that triggered a tsunami, the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Taa’pai volcano in Tonga appears to be simmering down as the volcanic activity has been downgraded to Alert Level 3, meaning that eruption hazards are now confined near its vent. Communications to Tonga are still a challenge. While local telecommunications within the main island of Tongatapu have been restored, overseas communications still depend on a few satellite phones operating in the island. Early reports describe substantial ash coverage around Nuku’alofa, inundation of coastal areas and damage to some infrastructure. Two casualties were confirmed. While damage to agriculture is less than what was feared, concerns about water supply, air quality and availability of fuel have been raised. Outbreak of waterborne diseases is also feared as tidal surges caused flooding 2-3 blocks inland. Aerial surveillance showed significant infrastructure damage to small islands in the Haapai group, north of the capital. The main airport in the capital is not yet operational as the ash covering the runaway is still being cleared. Repatriation flights from New Zealand and Fiji have also been cancelled because of the ash cloud.
Entry to Tonga remains restricted because of COVID-19 protocols.