Australia and New Zealand have sent surveillance flights to assess the damage in Tonga after an undersea volcano eruption triggered a tsunami and blanketed the Pacific island in ash.
The eruption caused internet and phone lines to go down on Saturday night, leaving the islands’ 105,000 residents virtually unreachable.
Early reports suggest there were no mass casualties, but Australian police visited the beaches and saw extensive damage with “houses thrown up”, Australia’s Pacific Minister Zed said. Seselja.
A ‘disappearing’ Briton
Reports say a Briton named Angela Glover is missing after being swept away.
The 50-year-old animal charity worker has not been seen since her coastal home was hit by waves. Her husband James reportedly managed to cling to a tree, but Mrs Glover and their dogs disappeared.
Her brother Nick Eleini fears for her safety as it has been more than 48 hours since she disappeared.
“The tsunami took both of them, Angela and James. James managed to cling to a tree after a while,” he told TZNZ in an emotional video call.
“It’s been 48 hours, I don’t have much hope. I think it will be a recovery of the body rather than finding her, but I hope… that’s all I can do.”
Mr Eleini, who lives in Sydney, said he was on his way to the UK to be with his mother as he is now “her only biological child”.
“She really needs me,” he said.
Bursting into tears, he said he and his wife “adored” his sister and described her as a “lovely girl”.
“Waiting is terrible”
Mr Eleini told the Guardian that Angela and James had kept a property on the west coast of the island of Tongatapu, the main island of Tonga.
“James returned to their own home on the south coast of the island, but Angela did not show up. James contacted the police and the British Embassy there, where he was able to brief us on what happened. was over,” he explained.
Mr Eleini said the search for his sister is ongoing but the wait is “excruciating”, adding: “I can’t even believe the words are coming out of my mouth, to be honest”.
He said Angela and her husband have lived in Tonga since 2015 and she previously worked in advertising in London before setting up an animal sanctuary in Tonga called TAWS, where she is listed on the organization’s website. charities as vice-president.
She is “popular” and loved in the community, he said, adding that she has a passion for travel and has “really embraced” the Tongan way of life.
Meanwhile, two people are known to have drowned on a beach in Peru due to unusually high waves after the eruption.
According to reports, communities on the west coast of Tonga have been badly affected.
The owners of Ha’atafu Beach Resort, on the Hihifo peninsula, 21 km (13 miles) west of the capital Nuku’alofa, said on Facebook that it had been “completely wiped out”.
The Australian Foreign Office and the New Zealand military said they each sent a surveillance flight Monday morning to Tonga to assess the extent of the damage.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison pledged to provide support to Tonga as soon as possible, but said the huge ash cloud covering the island had hampered relief efforts.
“There have been a lot of challenges there with the ash cloud and the communications disruption and so we are working together to provide as much support as possible to Tonga,” he told 2GB radio station.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said communications were limited and therefore no contact had been made with coastal areas beyond the Tongan capital, Nuku’alofa.
No news from coastal areas
“Nuku’alofa is ‘covered in thick plumes of volcanic dust but otherwise conditions are calm and stable,’ she said. ‘We have yet to hear back from other coastal areas.’
Ms Ardern later said the main undersea communications cable had been affected, likely due to the power outage.
However, she also said power was being restored in some areas of the islands and local cellphones were slowly starting to connect to networks.
The devastation ‘could be immense’
The International Federation of the Red Cross said it was mobilizing its regional network to respond to what it called the worst volcanic eruptions the Pacific has seen in decades.
“From the few updates we have, the scale of the devastation could be immense, especially for remote islands,” said Katie Greenwood, head of the IFRC’s peace delegation.
Satellite images captured the volcanic eruption on Saturday as the explosion sent plumes of smoke into the air, triggering 1.2 meter tsunami wave warnings and evacuation orders on several Pacific islands.
Sanya Ruggiero, a communications worker in the Fijian capital Suva, described how the eruption left “his whole house shaking”, despite being around 750km from Tonga.
He said: “My doors, my windows were slamming like hell. And mine wasn’t even as bad as the others.
“Hundreds of people have fled their homes.”