Tonga: Volcanic eruption and tsunami cuts off country from the world

Tongan Red Cross emergency teams are providing relief from pre-positioned supplies to people affected by the tsunami in Tonga

Tongan Red Cross emergency teams are providing relief from pre-positioned supplies to people affected by the tsunami in Tonga

Photo: Tongan Red Cross

Kuala Lumpur/Suva, 16 January 2022 - The small Pacific Island country of Tonga has been cut off from the rest of the world after an enormous volcanic eruption and subsequent tsunami hit the country on Saturday.

All communication lines in the country have been disrupted with no timeframe given on restoration. Responding to one of the worst volcanic eruptions the Pacific has experienced in decades, Red Cross is mobilising its regional network to provide relief.

Katie Greenwood, IFRC’s Pacific Head of Delegation, said:

“From what little updates we have, the scale of the devastation could be immense- especially for outer lying Islands. We are trying hard to establish contact with our colleagues at Tonga Red Cross and establish the scale and specific nature of the support they need.

“Trained Tonga Red Cross teams will be on the ground supporting evacuations in coordination with public authorities, providing first aid if needed, and distributing prepositioned relief supplies.

“Red Cross currently has enough relief supplies in the country to support 1200 households with essential items such as tarpaulins, blankets, kitchen sets, shelter tool kits and hygiene kits.”

There are fears that communities may not have access to safe and clean drinking water as a result of saltwater inundation caused by the tsunami waves and ashfall from the volcanic eruption. Shelter is also a concern, particularly for those communities near the coast line.

“Local Red Cross teams are well placed to respond quickly to emergencies like this. We are determined to provide the extra resources and support they may need in the face of such a devastating disaster.

“With communication channels disrupted one of the priorities for Tonga Red Cross will be to work with our Movement partner, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to restore family links which will help people from all over the world try and find out if their family and friends in Tonga are safe and well.”

Update: On 21 January 2022 the IFRC launched an Emergency Appeal for the Tonga volcano and tsunami. Find out more here.

For more information, contact:

In Suva: Soneel Ram, +679 9983 688, [email protected]

Asia Pacific Office: Joe Cropp, +61 491 743 089, [email protected]

Asia Pacific Office: Antony Balmain, +60 12 230 8451, [email protected]