An eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai underwater volcano, about 65 kilometres north of Tonga’s capital of Nuku’alofa, caused a 1.2 metre tsunami at 530pm local time Saturday 15 January.
A tidal wave was recorded in Fiji and tsunami warnings were issued for Fiji, Samoa, Vanuatu, New Zealand and Australia.
The immediate concern in Tonga is for air and water safety due to ash and smoke. The government has asked the public to wear masks and use bottled water for now.
Authorities have reported no casualties at this stage and all Save the Children staff and volunteers located in Tonga, Fiji and Vanuatu are safe and accounted for.
Save the Children Fiji CEO Shairana Ali said the organisation was closely monitoring the situation and was prepared to respond where needed.
“The booms from the eruption of the Tonga volcano could be clearly heard in Fiji,” said Ms Ali.
“Our thoughts have been for the safety of our Tongan brothers and sisters, and Save the Children is well-placed to assist as needed.”
“There have been tidal and tsunami waves hitting parts of Fiji and Vanuatu, causing some damage to coastal areas but thankfully not fatalities.”
“Communications have been affected but we’re doing what we can to ensure those living in low-lying coastal areas are moving to higher-ground.”
“The experts have warned that volcanic activity may continue causing new tsunami warnings to be issued, and recommended people stay indoors to avoid the ash and smoke.”
“The people of Pacific Island nations are sadly becoming very used to facing disasters. They are incredibly resilient communities.”
“We urge everyone to follow the guidance and Save the Children stands ready to assist.”
Save the Children has a small presence in Tonga, and more significant staff and resources in Fiji, Vanuatu and throughout the region.
In Tonga, Save the Children supports the Ministry of Education to deliver a $1 million (AUD) distance learning program utilising technology to reach outlying islands and remote populations.
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