From: The Stream

Tonga volcano: What now?

On Thursday, January 19 at 19:30GMT:
Rescuers are still waiting to get on the ground in Tonga after an undersea volcano erupted, wiping out communities and crippling the country’s ability to communicate with the outside world. 

The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano exploded on Saturday spitting ash 19 miles in the air, triggering acid rain, and unleashing tsunami waves 15 metres high when they crashed into nearby islands. At least three people were killed by the rushing water.

NASA researchers say the volcanic blast was 500 times more powerful than the nuclear bomb dropped by the US on Hiroshima, Japan at the end of World War Two.

Tonga is a Polynesian archipelago of 176 islands with a population of roughly 100,000 people spread out over some 30 inhabited islands.

The country’s main airport was not damaged, but it is covered in a layer of volcanic ash which now has to be removed by hand. Air reconnaissance missions by New Zealand and Australian authorities have been one of the only sources of information.

When aid workers do make it on the ground there is a fear they will bring COVID-19 with them. Since the start of the pandemic, Tonga has managed to keep the virus at bay.

In this episode of the Stream, we’ll discuss the disaster, the aftermath, and ask what help is most needed now.

On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:
Louise Waterhouse
Honorary Consulate General of Kingdom of Tonga, Australia

Shane Cronin, @scronin70
Professor of Volcanology, University of Auckland

Katie Greenwood, @KatiegIFRC
Pacific Head Delegation, International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC)