On January 15, the Hunga Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano erupted, triggering a tsunami and releasing a column of ash into the atmosphere. A largely underwater volcano, it is located approximately 60 km from the capital city, Nuku’alofa. The blast of the volcano was so powerful that it created a sonic boom, and a shock wave that reached the other side of the planet.
After trying for many days, communication with the rector in Nuku’alofa, Evangelist Fonci Sitani, was finally established. He has reported on the current situation in the Tongan Islands.
Tongatapu, the largest of the Tongan islands, was mainly shielded by smaller islands and its surrounding reefs from the destructive effects of the tsunami as result of the volcanic eruption. The Matakieua district, where the greater majority of our congregation’s members live, did not experience the impact of the tsunami. However, all are affected by the fallout of volcanic ash. Some people acted very quickly, disconnecting and covering their rainwater tanks. Others just did not know in time. So, a concern for contaminated drinking water is becoming more apparent every day.
Australian and New Zealand relief vessels have arrived and at this early stage of their relief work the focus is on the worst affected islands around Ha’apai and those islands closest to the volcanic eruption, where the islands’ people have lost everything.
Thankfully our congregation members, their families, and neighbours are safe and well although they are restricted to their homes and the surrounding areas. All are strongly advised not to go to work at this stage nor undertake any unnecessary travel. All churches, markets and public places have been closed for the past week including the two weekends. Evangelist Fonci Sitani will advise how we can best assist their communities constructively in the coming days.
File photos of members in Tonga