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Reconnaissance Flight Reveals Significant Damage To Tonga's Main Island After Volcano Eruption

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Reconnaissance Flight Reveals Significant Damage To Tonga's Main Island After Volcano Eruption

The first reconnaissance flight to go over Tonga has revealed the country's main island has suffered 'significant damage' from the volcano eruption over the weekend.

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A humungous plume of ash was sent high into the sky on Saturday (January 15) just before nightfall when an underwater vent exploded near the island of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai.

The explosion has effectively cut Tonga off from the rest of the world and the race is on to try and re-establish contact.

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Many Tongans around the world have struggled to get in contact with their loved ones back home and authorities are finding it difficult to speak to anyone about how bad it is on the ground.

New Zealand's Defence Force has flown a plane over the region to get answers.

The New Zealand High Commission has since revealed the damage along the western coast of the main island of Tongapatu is 'significant' and a 'thick' layer of ash continues to blanket the area.

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The Herald reports many resorts around the capital, Nuku'alofa, have been destroyed.

Owners of the Ha'atafu Beach Resort wrote on Facebook: "The whole western coastline has been completely destroyed along with Kanukupolu village."

New Zealand's Defence Force is hoping to run a humanitarian flight as soon as conditions permit it.

A spokesperson said: "We have placed personnel on shortened notices to move and Royal New Zealand Navy ships are being readied for deployment and may deploy ahead of a formal request for assistance, given the distance to Tonga."

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The eruption sent a sonic boom that was reportedly heard as far away as Alaska, according to The Guardian, as the sound wave rocketed across the Pacific at 1,200 kilometres an hour.

Credit: Twitter
Credit: Twitter

The Sydney Morning Herald suggests it was the equivalent of 1,000 Hiroshima bombs.

The underwater volcano lies around 65 kilometres north of the capital, and a 1.5 metre tsunami reportedly hit shortly after the explosion.

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One eyewitness told Stuff: "It was massive, the ground shook, our house was shaking. It came in waves. My younger brother thought bombs were exploding nearby.

"We just knew straight away it was a tsunami. Just water gushing into our home.

"You could just hear screams everywhere, people screaming for safety, for everyone to get to higher ground."

There has already been one reported death from the explosion.

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The brother of Angela Glover said the British woman died trying to rescue dogs shortly after the explosion.

Two people have also drowned in northern Peru after unusually high waves were reported in the area following the eruption.

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: News, Volcano

Stewart Perrie
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