80 percent of Tonga affected by eruption and tsunami |

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In total, around 84,000 people, more than 80% of the population of the South Pacific Kingdom, were affected by the disaster.

Apart from the three deaths reported earlier in the week, no other deaths have been confirmed.

In an update released on Thursday, OCHA confirms that the entire economically vital agricultural sector, including crops, livestock and fisheries, has suffered significantly.

The agency is particularly concerned about the effect of ashfall on crops as well as saltwater intrusion and the potential for acid rain.

About 60-70% of herding households have seen their animals perish, their pastures damaged or their water supplies contaminated.

Fisheries operating in the more than 170 islands that make up the archipelago have also been significantly affected and the government has advised against fishing amid the ongoing contamination or consuming fish.

Evaluation

Initial Damage Assessments (IDA) are underway on the main island, Tongatapu, as well as the islands of the Ha’apai group, by the Tonga National Emergency Management Office (NEMO) and its partners.

Most parts of the country, including remote and isolated islands, were also visited by assessment teams, OCHA said.

So far, five communities in Tongatapu have been identified as having suffered significant damage to households in coastal areas. About 31 houses are completely damaged, 72 seriously, 46 moderately and 23 slightly damaged.

According to OCHA, access to drinking water and the quality of groundwater still raise serious concerns.

The capital’s water supply is safe to drink, but most people now rely on bottled water. Authorities have advised residents against drinking rainwater until more information becomes available.

Response in progress

Local and international partners are working hard to solve these problems, bringing in water, purification units and desalination equipment.

Another major issue for the future, according to OCHA, is monitoring the risk of infectious diseases.

There are also reports of a fuel shortage, but petrol supplies are part of regular shipments and with additional support from the Australian Government.

As far as public health concerns are concerned, the capital’s national hospital and pharmacy are intact and fully functioning. According to OCHA, damage was reported in some health centers in Tongatapu, ‘Eua and Ha’apai.

Communications Update

In terms of international connectivity, it is still limited, but the situation is gradually improving, the humanitarian coordination agency said.

Among other initiatives, a ship is on its way to repair the badly damaged undersea communications cable – the country’s only fixed link to the outside world – but this work could take several weeks to complete. Communication with the outer islands remains very limited.

Through the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster, the World Food Program (WFP) supports the process of restoring communications, in particular telephone and Internet services.

As explained to UN News, the agency also supports the food security and logistics clusters, working on the assessment of needs, priorities and other logistical aspects of the humanitarian response.

WFP has also activated its Donate Responsibly campaign to raise awareness about how people can donate responsibly.

Open airports

After being closed for several days due to ash on the runway, the debris at Fua’amotu International Airport is said to have been cleared of mines thanks to the tireless efforts of the Tongan authorities, and is now operational.

Relief flights from New Zealand and Australia arrived on Thursday, and a domestic flight departed for Ha’apai, confirming the airport was also operational.

Oil spill in Peru

The effects of the eruption and tsunami were also felt across the Pacific, in Peru, where the United Nations country team is monitoring the impacts of a tragic oil spill that resulted from the disaster, to thousands of kilometers to the west.

Authorities say the spill is impacting two nature reserves in the South American country, affecting livelihoods as well as life below and above the water.

The UN Resident Coordinator, Igor Garafulic, met the authorities on Thursday morning and pledged to support the entire UN team to deal with the ecological disaster.

The volcanic eruption was the largest recorded in thirty years.

A massive 20 km high mushroom of smoke and ash was followed by a tsunami, and the eruption was heard as far away as Australia and New Zealand.

Waves up to 1.2 meters high hit the capital, Nuku’alofa, whose residents fled to higher ground, leaving behind flooded homes, while rocks and ash rained down from the sky.


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