British woman first confirmed death from Tonga tsunami

Angela Glover's brother Nick Eleini says his sister was swept away by tsunami waters while trying to rescue the stray dogs she looked after at Tonga Animal Welfare Society.

Angela Glover was swept away by the tsunami in Tonga while trying to rescue her dogs.

Angela Glover was swept away by the tsunami in Tonga while trying to rescue her dogs. Source: Supplied

A British woman was killed as she tried to rescue the dogs she looked after in Tonga after a massive underwater volcanic eruption, her brother said on Monday.

Angela Glover, 50, had been living in the South Pacific archipelago with her husband James since the couple married and set up the Tonga Animal Welfare Society to provide shelter and rehabilitation to stray dogs before rehoming them.

"I understand that this terrible accident came about as they tried to rescue their dogs," her brother Nick Eleini said.


"She loved people and she loved animals and this went right back to her childhood," he said. "And the strange thing was was the uglier the dog, the more she loved it."

New Zealand state broadcaster TVNZ earlier reported she was missing after being swept away by a wave while her husband managed to hold onto a tree.

Mr Eleini confirmed her body had been found, saying the family were shattered by the news.

"Angela was the heart of our family. She was the emotional heart of our family. And, you know, that heart is now gone," he said.

Communications remain 'severely hampered'

The United Nations said a distress signal was detected in an isolated, low-lying group of islands in the Tonga archipelago following the eruption and tsunami, prompting particular concern for its inhabitants.

Initial reports suggested no mass casualties on the main island of Togatapu, but two people were reported missing and the capital Nuku'alofa was badly damaged in Saturday's event, as were resorts and homes along the island's western beaches, it said.

"Further volcanic activity cannot be ruled out," the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in the update on Monday, reporting only minor injuries but emphasising that formal assessments, especially of the outer islands, had yet to be released with communications badly hit.
A composite satellite image shows the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai underwater volcano before and after its eruption.
A composite satellite image shows the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai underwater volcano before and after its eruption. Source: COPERNICUS SENTINEL/EU

The uninhabited volcanic island of Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai all but disappeared following the blast, according to satellite images from around 12 hours later. The Pacific archipelago was blanketed in ash and volcanic ash clouds spread to countries thousands of kilometres to the west.

The OCHA said there had been no contact from the Ha'apai group of islands and there was "particular concern" about two small low-lying islands - Fonoi and Mango, where an active distress beacon had been detected. According to the Tonga government, 36 people live on Mango and 69 on Fonoi.

Experts said the volcano, which last erupted in 2014, had been puffing away for about a month before rising magma, superheated to around 1,000 degrees Celsius, met with 20-degree seawater, causing an instantaneous and massive explosion.

Australia and New Zealand sent surveillance flights on Monday to assess damage and Australia's Minister for the Pacific Zed Seselja said Australian police had visited beaches and reported significant damage with "houses thrown around".

The impact of the eruption was felt as far away as Fiji, New Zealand, the United States and Japan. Two people drowned off a beach in northern Peru due to high waves caused by the tsunami.

Tonga is COVID-free and has concerns about the risk of aid deliveries spreading the virus to the island - any aid sent will need to be quarantined and it's unlikely any foreign personnel would be allowed to disembark aircraft.

International communication has been severely hampered by damage to an undersea cable, which could take more than a week to restore, and Australia and New Zealand were assisting with satellite calls, he said.

The Ha'atafu Beach Resort, on the Hihifo peninsula, 21 kilometres west of the capital Nuku'alofa, was "completely wiped out", the owners said on Facebook.

The family that manages the resort had run for their lives through the bush to escape the tsunami, it said. "The whole western coastline has been completely destroyed along with Kanukupolu village," the resort said.

Katie Greenwood, the Pacific head of delegation for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, told Reuters up to 80,000 people could have been affected by the tsunami.

With Reuters

4 min read
Published 18 January 2022 at 5:57am
Source: AAP, SBS