Airmen from the Australian and New Zealand Air Forces flew to Tonga on Monday to provide assistance following the massive volcanic eruption off the island's coast. According to official information, they should primarily provide aerial photos of the more remote islands of the Pacific state and provide information about damage to roads, ports and power poles. Another plane should bring urgently needed drinking water and other relief supplies to Tonga, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a press conference. Should the machine not be able to land due to damaged runways, the charge will be dropped from the air. The extent of the damage in the South Seas archipelago is still unclear.
Communications there continued to be severely affected Monday, particularly on some of Tonga's more remote islands, which have not been contacted since the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai erupted.
The government there is sending out ships to explore the situation, Radio New Zealand reported on Monday.
Tonga has around 170 islands, 36 of which are uninhabited.
Saturday's eruption could be heard thousands of miles away.
A huge cloud of ash had risen for kilometers like a mushroom cloud.
The eruption triggered tidal waves and put many Pacific countries on alert.
Tsunami waves were recorded not only in Tonga, but also in New Zealand, Japan, Alaska and South America.
Aid organizations warned of health damage from the ash and advised Tonga residents to wear masks and only drink bottled water.
Floods were also reported from Peru, among others, but the situation there normalized again on Sunday (local time), according to media reports.
In the meantime, there was a tsunami warning for Easter Island and the coastal region in Chile, which was then lifted again.
The volcano could remain restless
According to experts, the outbreak was the strongest in the world for 30 years.
Initial data showed there hadn't been such a violent eruption since Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991, said volcanologist Shane Cronin of the University of Auckland Radio New Zealand.
Had the eruption occurred on land, the effects would have been "apocalyptic," Cronin said.
It is unclear whether the recent eruption represents the peak of activity.
It could also be that the volcano remains restless for several weeks or even years.
The ash plumes triggered by the eruption have now even reached Australia's east coast, the Weather Watch New Zealand weather service said.
The cloud is moving west across Queensland and will cover much of the state during the day, it said.
According to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand wants to send a second Hercules machine with important relief supplies to Tonga.
If the runway in Tonga's capital, Nuku'alofa, is damaged, the materials could also be jettisoned, Ardern told journalists on Monday.
"Flights operated today will help us identify where there is a need," Ardern said.
"We know that water is urgently needed and we hope that the Hercules can start today to meet this need." It is still unclear whether there were any deaths or injuries.
As a result of the seaquake, an important undersea cable was also cut, so the Internet in Tonga was down.
The other communication links were also disrupted, but mobile phones seemed to be working at least partially, albeit only locally and not internationally.
"It is a terrible time but Nuku'alofa is still standing, electricity has been restored to many homes," New Zealand's High Commissioner in Tonga, Peter Lund, said on Facebook.
The capital lies under a layer of volcanic ash.
Cleanups should begin this week.
The submarine volcano, about 65 kilometers from Tonga's capital, erupted on two days in a row.
While only small tsunami waves were registered after the first eruption on Friday, the second eruption on Saturday was also heard in New Zealand and Fiji, 2000 kilometers away.
Fiji residents have been urged to cover water tanks and stay indoors in case of ash fall.Keywords: