Anxious wait for news …after tsunami cuts off Tonga

Tongans living overseas are facing an anxious wait for news of loved ones after a volcano triggered a tsunami.

The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haʻapai volcano erupted on Saturday, about 65km (40 miles) north of the capital Nuku’alofa.

The eruption, which was heard as far away as the US, caused waves higher than a metre to crash into Tonga.

The authorities have not confirmed any deaths but communications are crippled, making it difficult to establish the scale of the destruction.

But a British woman, Angela Glover, died after being swept away in the waves, her brother says.

More than 10,000km away, two people drowned off a beach in northern Peru amid abnormally high waves.

Both New Zealand and Australia sent surveillance flights to find out more, with New Zealand saying there had been “significant damage” along the western coast of Tongatapu, Tonga’s main island.

But the Red Cross gave some cause for hope, saying reports suggested the damage was not as bad as had been feared.

“We believe that from the information that we can put together that it is not as catastrophic in those major population centres as we first thought that it might be, so that’s really good news,” said Katie Greenwood, who is coordinating the organisation’s response from Fiji.

Internet and telephone communications in Tonga are extremely limited and outlying coastal areas remain cut off.

For many Tongans living overseas, it has been two days since they have been able to speak to family and friends.

Petilise Tuima told the Sydney Morning Herald that the last time she spoke to her family was on Saturday afternoon when they were fleeing to higher ground.

“Everyone is calling each other within our Tongan groups, wanting to see if anyone has picked up or heard anything… We are just desperate,” she said. -BBC

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