Fears powerful volcano may strike again after three die following eruption

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The powerful volcanic eruption which has devastated several islands and coastlines could strike again, officials warn.

International rescue teams remain on standby to offer assistance to Tonga as concerns grow that the underwater volcano that erupted last Saturday and caused a tsunami could erupt again soon.

The number of confirmed casualties remains low, with three deaths formally reported so far, including British woman Angela Glover, but the Red Cross has estimated that as many as 80,000 people may have been impacted.

Tonga’s government said today that the evacuation of some outlying islands had begun following widespread destruction, including an entire village on Mango Island, reports Reuters.

In a statement on Tuesday, the prime minister’s office confirmed the deaths of a 65-year-old woman on Mango Island and a 49-year-old man on Nomuka Island, as well as Angela.

The Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano forms part of the “Pacific ring of fire” volcanoes which are explosive and expected to create powerful eruptions.

“The volcano is likely to erupt further in coming days but without data from the volcano it is not possible to predict or even speculate how explosive these eruptions are going to be,” geochemist Oliver Nebel from Monash University said, according to 7News.

The aftermath of the massive eruption and the amount of damage it caused in Tonga remains unclear, with most communications to the country – which is made up of 169 islands – largely cut off following the tsunami.

The head of the Red Cross’s Pacific delegation said trained Tonga teams would be on the ground supporting evacuations in coordination, providing first aid, and distributing relief supplies.

Katie Greenwood said local teams were well placed to respond quickly to such emergencies.

“Red Cross currently has enough relief supplies in the country to support 1,200 households with essential items such as tarpaulins, blankets, kitchen sets, shelter tool kits and hygiene kits,” she said.

“There are fears that communities may not have access to safe and clean drinking water [and] shelter is also a concern, particularly for those communities near the coastline.”

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The Ha’atafu Beach Resort on the main island of Tongatapu has been “completely wiped out”, according to a Facebook post.

“The whole western coastline has been completely destroyed along with Kanukupolu village,” the resort’s managers wrote.

Australia has already sent a P-8 plane to assess the damage following the natural disaster on Saturday.

But Tonga’s strict quarantine measures designed to keep Covid-19 out of the country are complicating relief efforts. Since the start of the pandemic, there has been just one confirmed case of Covid-19 in Tonga.

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