Updated Jan 18, 2022 - World

At least 3 dead after Tonga volcano eruption and tsunami

A satellite image of the explosive eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano on Jan. 15.
A satellite image of the explosive eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano on Saturday. Photo: UNICEF/NOAA

At least three people are confirmed to have died in Tonga following the undersea volcanic eruption that sent tsunami waves toward the island nation and across the Pacific over the weekend, officials said Tuesday.

The big picture: Officials reported major damage along the western coast of the main island of Tongatapu, where the capital, Nuku'alofa, was covered in ash and dust, including on the runway of the airport. Officials in Tonga confirmed three deaths in the country's first official statement since the crisis began.

A UN map showing the damages of the Tonga eruption in Nomuka village as of 17 January.
A map showing damage from the Tonga eruption in Nomuka village on Monday morning. "104 structures were analyzed in the cloud-free area, almost all the structures were covered with ash, 41 were identified as damaged," per a UN Satellite Center tweet. Photo: UNOSAT
  • These included a 65-year-old woman from Mango island, a 49-year-old man from Nomuka island and a British woman reported as missing earlier.
  • Angela Glover's brother said she had been "swept away by the tsunami" in Tonga while trying to save her dogs, per the BBC.
  • The Australian and New Zealand defense forces have deployed surveillance aircraft to the region, but officials report that the damage is making relief efforts difficult.

Meanwhile, communications to Tonga have been largely cut off after an undersea cable was damaged in the disaster.

What they're saying: In a statement, Tonga officials called the situation an "unprecedented disaster" and said that "water supplies have been seriously affected by the volcanic ash."

  • Australia's minister for the Pacific Zed Seselja told local media there was "significant damage" to the region, including to vacation resorts.
  • He said Tongan officials planned to evacuate outer island residents, who were "doing it very tough ... with many houses being destroyed in the tsunami," per Reuters.

Go deeper: Satellite images reveal Tonga eruption damage

Editor's note: This article has been updated with a statement from officials in Tonga.

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