Australia to assess extent of Tonga volcano, tsunami damage
An Australian military plane will depart for Tonga to assess the devastation from the volcanic eruption despite earlier delays due to a lingering ash plume over the Pacific nation.
Tonga has been cut off from the rest of the world after an underwater volcano launched ash 15km into the air and prompted a tsunami, leading to devastating flooding on the main island.
While no deaths or injuries have been reported, communication with the country is limited due to damage to an undersea cable.
Pacific Minister Zed Seselja said Australia and New Zealand would be assessing the scale of devastation through Monday.
“We have a C-130 which is being loaded with humanitarian supplies, particularly supplies to provide shelter for individuals and families, so that’s things like tarpaulins, water and sanitation kits,” Mr Seselja told ABC News.
“Once flying conditions allow we will be able to deploy that kind of support.”
The military plane out of Australia is set to depart once conditions ease on Monday morning, with a P3 Orion flight from New Zealand already on the way to the country.
It’s hoped the missions will provide a clearer picture of the destruction caused to the outer islands, where communication is cut off.
There is currently significant damage to property and roads in the western beaches region.
While there are no reports of any mass casualties, Australian authorities will focus on getting further information over the next several hours.
“We’re obviously looking to get as much information as we can on the ground,” Mr Seselja said.
“We have some information. We hope to have significantly more information in the next few hours and then there will be the further discussions with the Tongan government to determine how we can support the people of Tonga at this very difficult time.”
The Bureau of Meteorology has cancelled all tsunami warnings for Australia, including New South Wales and Lord Howe and Norfolk islands.
The bureau initially issued the warnings after the eruption on Saturday, with the force strong enough to reach Australian shores.
In Australia, the largest wave was experienced on Norfolk Island, measuring at 1.27 metres.
A shockwave travelling at around 1000km/h also affected Perth several hours after the eruption.
Senior meteorologist Sarah Scully said flights on Monday were diverting from their usual routes due to the volcanic ash plume in the atmosphere.
“These types of events are rare, tsunamis are usually generated through earthquakes but in this case it was a volcanic eruption,” she told Sunrise.
“But the effects of it have now passed.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said both Australia and New Zealand were doing everything they could to assist.
“There’s been a lot of challenges there with the ash cloud and the disruption to communications and so we’re working together to give as much support to Tonga as we possibly can,” he told 2GB.
“They’re part of our Pacific family and we certainly will be obviously (supporting them) because of the eruption.
“What’s occurring has made it very challenging, but we’ll work through those issues.”
Originally published as Australia to assess extent of Tonga volcano, tsunami damage
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