Tonga: Two women drown on Peru beach after volcanic eruption 10,000 km away

Tonga’s Assembly speaker has called for immediate assistance for the island’s residents

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Monday 17 January 2022 12:54
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Tonga eruption sends out huge volcanic shockwave

Two women were swept away by "anomalous waves" in northern Peru after an underwater volcanic eruption off Tonga, more than 10,000km away.

The deceased were identified as 46-year-old Heyner Quiroz and 23-year-old Wendy Altamirano, who "were surprised by successive waves" that pulled and drowned them on Naylamp beach in Lambayeque.

The bodies were found by officers from the Naylamp beach police station, the police said on Twitter.

The Peruvian government on Saturday closed 22 Pacific ports as a precaution amid warning of abnormally high waves in the wake of the volcanic eruption. Several homes and businesses were flooded by seawater in the northern and central regions of Peru.

The eruption of volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai off Tonga prompted tsunami warnings around the Pacific, which were later receded on Sunday.

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.

Tsunami waves of about 2.7 feet crashed into Tonga’s shoreline damaging boats and shops on Tonga’s shoreline.

According to the National Weather Service, the sonic boom could be heard as far away as Alaska and sent pressure shockwaves around the planet twice. Large waves were detected as far away as the Caribbean due to pressure changes generated by the eruption.

Lord Fakafanua, the nation's speaker of the Assembly, asked for "immediate assistance" of fresh water and food.

"Communications remain down and the full extent of the harm to lives and property is currently unknown. What we do know is that Tonga needs immediate assistance to provide its citizens with fresh drinking water and food," he said, in a statement shared on social media.

Eruption of the underwater volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai off Tonga

Neighbours New Zealand and Australia sent their military surveillance flights to Tonga on Monday to assess the damage. Communications with Tonga remained extremely limited, however, New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern said power has been restored in some areas of the island.

The company that owns the single underwater fibre-optic cable that connects the island nation to the rest of the world said that it is likely that the cable was severed and repairs could take weeks.

The Associated Press quoted Sanya Ruggiero, a consulting communications advisor based in Suva, Fiji’s capital, some 750km from Tonga, as saying: “My entire house was shaking. My doors, windows were all rattling like hell. And mine was not even as bad as others. Hundreds of people ran out of their homes.”

Many living in the areas worst affected were evacuated to safer places, reports said.

“This is the worst disaster Tonga has had in living memory and the recovery from this is going to take years,” Ms Ruggiero said.

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