Overseas Tongans wait anxiously for news after volcano eruption

Overseas Tongans wait anxiously for news after volcano eruption

Overseas Tongans are waiting anxiously for news of loved ones after a powerful volcanic eruption and tsunami severed communications with the kingdom in the southwestern Pacific Ocean.

Concerns among the 85,000-strong Tongan community in New Zealand were heightened on Monday by news it could be two weeks before communications are restored following the eruption of Hunga Tonga–Hunga Haʻapai on Saturday.

Besides leaving people in the dark about the fate of their loved ones, the lack of internet threatens Tongans reliant on money transfers from relatives overseas.

“I think the worst part is the blackout and the fact that we know nothing,” said Filipo Motulalo, a New Zealand-based journalist with Pacific Media Network. “There is no communication,” he added.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said officials had made satellite contact with the country’s high commission in Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, after the eruption which triggered a tsunami that swept Pacific coastlines from Japan to the United States and was heard as far away as Alaska and Finland.

New Zealand was informed that there had been no reports of death or injury in the capital, but there was “significant” damage in some areas.

“I would say we’re anxious, not fearful,” said the Auckland Tongan Community secretary, Kennedy Maeakafa Fakana’ana’a-ki-Fualu.


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