Queen Elizabeth has sent the following message of condolence to King Tupou VI of Tonga on Thursday, 20 January 2022, following the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haʻapai volcano.
I am shocked and saddened by the impact of the volcanic eruption and tsunami in Tonga.
My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Tonga, as you work together to recover from the damage caused.
It must be incredibly difficult for those who are unable to contact friends and family while communications are disrupted, and I hope that they will soon be restored.
The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haʻapai Volcano
The uninhabited volcanic island of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupted on Monday, 14 January 2022, and spewed a huge cloud of ash into the air about 15 to 20 kilometres (9 to 12 miles) above the Pacific Ocean.
The volcano was described as the worst eruption in the Pacific for decades, even said to be bigger than Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines about 30 years ago.
According to Reuters, the last explosion occured in 2014 but experts said Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apa had been ‘puffing away for about a month before rising magma, superheated to around 1,000ºCelsius, met with 20ºC seawater, causing an instantaneous and massive explosion.’
The explosion, which was caught on satellite, could be felt as far away as Fiji, New Zealand, the United States and Japan, as most of the island had disappeared.
Tsunami warning was issued immediately for a mass evacuation to higher ground in Tonga and for surrounding nations across the Pacific to countries such as America Samoa, New Zealand and Australia’s east coast.
The capital Nuku’alofa was badly damaged, especially homes and resorts on the island’s western beaches.
Two people, including a British national, are reported missing whilst two drowned in Peru from the tsunami.
A fibre-optic underwater cable was damaged due to the blast, cutting off international communications, and it could take more than a week to restore.
The telephone networks in Tonga have been restored and Australia and New Zealand are providing help with satellite calls.
The Australian and New Zealand governments are currently assisting with the recovery effort in Tonga by sending aircraft and naval ships with vital supplies.
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