On January 14 and 15 eruptions from Tonga’s Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai Volcano—located on the uninhabited Hunga Tonga Island approximately 43 miles northwest of Tonga’s capital city of Nuku’alofa on Tongatapu island— resulted in a tsunami that affected nearly 85,000 people across Tonga. The eruptions also generated dense ash clouds that fanned out across the islands of Tonga.
The eruption caused at least four deaths; internally displaced nearly 2,400 people -more than 2 percent of the country’s population- and damaged or destroyed at least 280 houses.
The Government of Tonga (GoT) and the UN estimated that approximately 36 percent of those displaced are children under 16 years of age.
The tsunami negatively affected water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) conditions, particularly the availability of safe drinking water, across affected areas.
Airlink has secured support from Alaska Airways and Fiji Airways for free of charge airlift from Los Angeles and San Francisco airports to Fiji for final movement to Tonga. The final movement to Tonga from Fiji will be supported with funds from Airlink’s Disaster Relief Fund and key donors. This initial movement is being used to support an NGO partner move critically needed food aid.
Immediately after the disaster, efforts by the NGO community to assist the people of Tonga were hampered by dense ash clouds that prevented aircraft movement, and strict quarantine requirements put in place by the Government of Tonga, prevented the quick deployment of responders and aid.
One month after the eruption of Tonga’s Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai Volcano, recovery efforts are still ongoing. Over 84,000 people were directly affected by the volcano eruption and tsunami, and 2,390 people continue to be displaced a month after the eruption. An ongoing COVID surge has impacted relief efforts, due to COVID lockdowns. About 200 people have been infected, all mild cases thus far. Tonga has a vaccination rate of 98%. Clean-up efforts are ongoing, and it’s been noted that ash continues to impact drainage on roads which has become an issue with flooding after rain.
Displaced and affected individuals urgently require food, shelter, and water provisions, as well as protection assistance, with approximately 25,400 women and girls in need of dignity kits and hygiene supplies.