How you can help those affected by the Tonga volcano eruption

The full extent of the blast's impact remains unknown, but disaster relief campaigns have been set up in the wake of the eruption.

A team of scientists observe the volcano on 14 January, a day before its violent eruption.

A team of scientists observe the volcano on 14 January, a day before its violent eruption. Source: Tonga Geological Service

The situation in Tonga following a massive underwater volcanic eruption on 15 January remains unclear, with communications largely severed between the Pacific nation and the outside world.

The country was covered with volcanic ash and the uninhabited volcanic island of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai all but disappeared following the blast.

The volcano sent ash around 20 kilometres into the sky in Saturday's eruption, but it is likely the tsunami of around 80 centimetres hitting Tongan shores generated the most damage.

Australia and New Zealand have sent surveillance flights to check the damage, and aid agencies have said they are prepared to provide support as the situation becomes clearer.

There are a number of ways Australians can help fund emergency relief.


CARE Australia’s Global Emergency Fund has said people in Tonga will need essentials following the disaster.

The charity said it worked with the MORDI Tonga Trust and Talitha Foundation in the country following the Tropical Cyclones Gita and Harold, and anticipates the response to the disaster will include helping those who have lost their homes to flooding and whose farmland has been destroyed by the ashfall.

It has set up a dedicated emergency appeal.

Views of the ocean after the Tongan eruption

Shirleen Ali, CARE International’s Pacific gender and inclusion senior advisor, heard the eruption from Fiji.

She said: “People in Tonga whose homes have been flooded are likely to need emergency shelter, food, safe drinking water, toilets and other basic essentials.

"I can only imagine how loud it must have been in Tonga … the noise went on for two or three hours."

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Red Cross

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said the Tonga Red Cross Society had supplies to support 1,200 households that were pre-positioned in the country.

It added its regional network would be mobilised to provide relief in response to "one of the worst volcanic eruptions the Pacific has experienced in decades".

Powerful waves have hit the shores of Tonga after a tsunami warning was issued for the Pacific nation following underwater volcanic activity.

Katie Greenwood, IFRC’s Pacific head of delegation, said: “From what little updates we have, the scale of the devastation could be immense - especially for outer lying Islands. We are trying hard to establish contact with our colleagues at Tonga Red Cross and establish the scale and specific nature of the support they need.

“Trained Tonga Red Cross teams will be on the ground supporting evacuations in coordination with public authorities, providing first aid if needed, and distributing pre-positioned relief supplies.

“Red Cross currently has enough relief supplies in the country to support 1,200 households with essential items such as tarpaulins, blankets, kitchen sets, shelter tool kits and hygiene kits.”

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Save the Children

Save the Children said they stand "prepared to respond where needed, but communications channels have been affected".

The charity said the immediate concern in the area will be air and water safety due to the ash and smoke. The government has asked the public to wear masks and use bottled water for now.

The full extent of the damage in Tonga is still unclear with communication lines down.

Save the Children Fiji CEO Shairana Ali said: “The booms from the eruption of the Tonga volcano could be clearly heard in Fiji.

"Our thoughts have been for the safety of our Tongan brothers and sisters, and Save the Children is well-placed to assist as needed.

“The people of Pacific Island nations are sadly becoming used to facing disasters. They are incredibly resilient communities.

“We urge everyone to follow the guidance and Save the Children stands ready to assist.”

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UNICEF Pacific allows people to donate to "where the need is greatest" and said it is ready to work with the Tongan government "to ensure urgent life-saving support is provided to families and children".

UNICEF Pacific representative Jonathan Veitch said: "UNICEF will work with the government, civil society organisations, and other development partners to ensure immediate response efforts on the ground, which includes providing clean water, and emergency health supplies for children and families affected.”

The charity, part of the United Nations, said emergency supplies would be moved from Fiji and Brisbane warehouses.

It added: "These include essential water, sanitation, and hygiene [WASH] kits, water containers and buckets, water field test kits, tarpaulins, recreational kits, and tents, that can be immediately mobilised for distribution.

"With borders closed in Tonga due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF will work with the government and its partners on the ground to reach children and families with the support they urgently need."

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5 min read
Published 18 January 2022 at 4:01pm
By Alexander Britton
Source: SBS News