Distress Beacon Detected From Smaller Tonga Island, Death Toll Rises to 2

By Aldgra Fredly
Aldgra Fredly
Aldgra Fredly
Aldgra Fredly is a freelance writer based in Malaysia, covering Asia Pacific news for The Epoch Times.
January 18, 2022Updated: January 18, 2022

The United Nations reported Monday that a distress beacon had been detected from a low-lying Tongan island following Saturday’s massive volcanic eruption, which triggered a tsunami that has killed at least two people.

“An active distress beacon had been detected from Mango,” the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said, adding that the Tongan Maritime Force had been deployed to the island on Sunday.

Tonga police have told the New Zealand High Commission that the confirmed death toll stands at two, but with communications in the South Pacific island nation cut, the true extent of casualties is still unclear.

“It is too early to fully assess the impact on remote coastal areas of Tongatapu or further afield, including the outer islands, but concern remains about damage in Northern Tongatapu and contamination of drinking water sources and crops, and the resulting need for safe water supplies,” OCHA said in a statement.

The identities of the two deaths have not been revealed. According to initial reports, Angela Glover, a 50-year-old British woman, died from the tsunami after attempting to rescue her dogs from the waves, according to her brother.

OCHA expressed concern about Mango and another low-lying island, Fonoi, with populations of 36 and 69 people respectively, as there has been no contact with the residents so far. Surveillance has revealed that an entire village on Mango was destroyed.

Damage has also been reported from Tonga’s smaller islands of Fonoifua, Niniva, and Nomuka.

According to OCHA, Tonga’s only means of communication with the outside world are satellite phones, which are not always reliable. Some local phone systems have been restored on the main island of Tongatapu, as has electric power in some areas, but internet services remain down.

The OCHA claimed that surveillance flights conducted by the Australian and New Zealand governments confirmed “substantial property damage” from the eruption, with “extensive damage” being reported on the western beaches of Tongatapu.

Several resorts and houses in Tongatapu were destroyed or badly damaged from the eruption and subsequent ashfall, it said.

Fortunately, there was no significant damage reported at Tongatapu’s main Fua’amotu Airport, OCHA said, describing the situation on the main island as “calm and stable.”

The Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcanic eruption on Saturday caused tsunami waves to hit and flooded parts of Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa. The impact of the massive eruption was felt as far away as Peru, the United States, and Japan. Tsunami warnings and evacuation orders were issued in many Pacific countries.

Two people drowned off a beach in Northern Peru due to high waves caused by the tsunami.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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