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Tonga digs out of volcanic ash

Thick ash covers trees and homes on one of Tonga’s islands on Monday. Associated Press/Photo by Cpl. Vanessa Parker/New Zealand Defense Force

Tonga digs out of volcanic ash

Satellite pictures show the once vibrant Tongan landscape now a blanket of gray ash. The nearby underwater volcanic eruption on Saturday triggered mild tsunamis and wave surges. The ash has contaminated drinking water and shuttered runways. The government reported Tuesday two local residents and one British woman died in the waves. At least 50 homes were destroyed on the main island of Tongapatu. The government is trying to contact and assess smaller, harder-hit islands closer to the volcano where communications are still down. On nearby Mango Island, the office of the prime minister reported all 50 residents are now homeless.

How will they recover? New Zealand deployed a navy ship to Tonga on Tuesday loaded with fresh water and emergency supplies. The country also pledged 1 million New Zealand dollars toward recovery efforts. China said it is prepared to provide humanitarian aid along with Australia. But the people of Tonga are wary about allowing so many outsiders in. It is one of the only countries in the world that has avoided a COVID-19 outbreak, and officials worry that inviting foreigners would bring a new medical crisis.

Dig deeper: Read Onize Ohikere’s report in The Sift about a volcanic eruption in the Canary Islands in September.

Carolina Lumetta

Carolina is a WORLD reporter and a graduate of the World Journalism Institute and Wheaton College. She resides in Washington, D.C.


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