New Zealand Military Issue First Images Indicating Extent of Damage to Tonga

Kolomotu’a village, Tongatapu Division. Photograph: UNOSAT

Tuesday 18 January 2022. Zealand’s military have issued the first images that indicates the extent of the damages to the Islands of the Kingdom of Tonga since the massive undersea volcano eruption over the weekend.

New Zealand has also sent two navy ships to Tonga in the past 24 hours, and has pledged an initial one million New Zealand dollars towards recovery efforts.

Navy ships sent drinking water and other supplies, but relief efforts have been hampered by thick ash on an airport runway.

Australia said it has sent a naval ship from Sydney to Brisbane, so it can sail for Tonga if the Tongan government requests further help.

Tonga is comprised of 176 islands, only 36 of them inhabited, with a population of about 105,000 people.

Tonga has been largely cut off from the world after the eruption cut off its undersea fibre optic cable, and the company that runs it says repairs could take up to several weeks, as there is still some volcanic activity in the area.


Fefe Ho Loto Golden Sands, Tatakamotonga District, Tongatapu Division. Photograph: UNOSAT8

Tonga’s main island Tongatapu has reported “significant infrastructural damage”, according to UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

But Mr Dujarric added: “There has been no contact from the Ha’apai group of islands, and we are particularly concerned about two small low-lying islands – Mango and Fonoi – following surveillance flights confirming substantial property damage.”

There have been no official confirmations of casualties from Tongan authorities, but the family of Angela Glover, a British woman living in Tonga who went missing in the tsunami, reported on Monday that her body had been found.

New Zealand foreign affairs minister Nanaia Mahuta said on Tuesday that the ash could cause problems for getting aid into the country via plane.

What’s the extent of the damage?

According to Tonga’s government, 36 people live on Mango and 69 on Fonoi. Two deaths have been confirmed however, the damage to communications has meant the number of casualties is not yet clear

Photos released on Facebook from a NZ Defence Force report shows the extent of damage on some of Tonga’s islands. It shows:

• Tonga’s capital Nuku’alofa has suffered “limited to moderate” damage, with some flooding and a layer of ash covering buildings and vehicles

• The Ha’apai group of islands – 51 islands, 17 of them inhabited – has had “extensive” damage, with “all but the largest buildings destroyed or severely damaged”

• Mango has suffered “catastrophic” damage, with the entire village having been destroyed

• Nearby Atata has also suffered “catastrophic” damage, with many buildings missing.

New Zealand’s military has sent drinking water and other supplies, but relief efforts have been hampered by thick ash on an airport runway.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says clean drinking water is a priority for relief efforts.

New Zealand has said its military staff are vaccinated and willing to follow Tonga’s protocols.