Tonga earthquake: 6.2-magnitude tremor hits Pacific country

The earthquake was at a depth of 14.5km

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Thursday 27 January 2022 09:36 GMT
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Australian and British aid arrives in Tonga

A magnitude 6.2 earthquake struck about 219km (136.1miles) west-northwest of Pangai, Tonga, on Thursday, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) said.

The earthquake was at a depth of 14.5km.

The USGS has issued a green alert for shaking-related fatalities and economic losses, however, there is a low likelihood of damage since there are reportedly no settlements within 100kms (62 miles).

Due to disrupted communications, there were no immediate reports of the quake being felt in Tonga or neighbouring Fiji.

There has been no tsunami warning issued, according to Radio New Zealand. The Fiji Meteorological Service said that they had not been sent a warning from received a warning from the Pacific Tsunami Centre in Hawaii.

This is the second strong earthquake to hit the Pacific island after the Hunga Tonga–Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupted on 15 January, triggering a tsunami alert.

The powerful underwater volcanic eruption was about a thousand times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped by the US on Hiroshima during the Second World War, according to Nasa.

Three people, including two Tongan nationals and a British woman, were killed by the eruption and the tsunami that have destroyed hundreds of homes and cut off communications on several islands.

The Tongan government said on Monday that more than 80 per cent of the country’s 105,000 inhabitants have been affected by the ashfall and tsunami.

Satellite images showed plumes of ash and dust over Tonga, with smoke rising about 12 miles above sea level. The eruption was reportedly so loud that residents in faraway Fiji and New Zealand said they heard it.

At least 62 people on the remote Mango island had to be relocated to nearby Nomuka island “after losing their homes and personal belongings”. Mango, Fonoifua and Atata were three of the worst affected islands.

A car covered with ash is seen outside a house following volcanic eruption and Tsunami in Tongatapu, Tonga, on 16 January
A car covered with ash is seen outside a house following volcanic eruption and Tsunami in Tongatapu, Tonga, on 16 January (via REUTERS)

Many of these residents may have to move again to the main island of Tongatapu due to a lack of food and supplies in Nomuka, the government said.

Under two dozen injuries have also been reported from Nomuka, and the tsunami washed away healthcare facilities, the statement added.

Flights and ships carrying relief material, including freshwater, which has been the biggest concern since the eruption polluted the water bodies, have started arriving in Tonga after the locals cleared the island’s only airport, which was covered in a blanket of thick ash.

Most of the aid has arrived from neighbouring New Zealand and Australia, which are making contactless deliveries to adhere to the island’s Covid norms. The World Bank, Japan, India, China and the United States have pledged support to the battered nation.

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