“The people that can withstand difficulties are those that stand together,” Tongan King Tupou VI said in an address to the nation that was recorded over the telephone from his residence in ‘Eua and broadcasted on local radio last Thursday.

The King said Tonga has been affected by the devastation of the tsunami due to the volcanic eruption, which had devastated outer islands and destroyed homes, plantations and properties.

King Tupou VI was thankful that the lives were lost were a few, but felt and expressed condolences to their immediate families of those who lost their lives because it is a life.

“At the same time we face new challenges and the HMAF patrol boats are evacuating people on the outer islands devastated as the engines of small boats are affected from the small rocks from the volcanic eruption.”

“Our communication depends on what we have during times of natural disasters. But the people that can withstand difficulties are those that stand together. It is not how much we have financially or the monetary assistance from overseas but it is the willpower of the people and our belief in God so that we show love, help one another and be compassionate,” said King Tupou VI.

“In the aftermath of this devastation, we must all stand and work for our country as it is our inheritance because it only you and I who will feel for our home,” he said.

The King expressed his gratitude to the people for working together as well as government, churches, the private sector, businesses and other stakeholders for their joint efforts.

He also commended the important task of local radio stations in issuing warnings and helping to save lives during this natural disaster.

Meanwhile, 84 percent of the population of Tonga has been affected by the ashfall and tsunami that hit the country, the Tongan government has said in its second update since the volcanic eruption on 15 January.

Pictures taken at Kolomotu’a and Sopu which was severely damaged.
Photo: Marian Kupu / Broadcomfm Broadcasting

Sixty-two residents of the remote Mango Island have had to relocate to nearby Nomuka Island after losing their homes and belongings, and the government warned they may have to relocate again to the main island due to food and water shortages.

The government also released the names of the two Tongan nationals who died in the tsunami: Lataimaumi Lauaki, a 49-year-old woman from Nomuka; and Telai Tutu’ila, a 65-year-old man from Mango Island. They were buried in the days after the disaster.

As well as the three fatalities, which included 50-year-old British woman Angela Glover, several people had been injured, the government said, including one person on Ha’apai who required emergency medical treatment, eight injuries on Nomuka Island, four minor injuries on Fonoi Island and two minor injuries on Tungua Island.

The government said communication between the islands, which was cut off when the eruption damaged the undersea communications cable, was “an acute challenge”, though some international calls were now possible.

“A New Zealand relief flight arrived with much-needed telecommunications equipment to re-establish limited internet connection,” the statement said.

The vessel that will attempt to repair the undersea communications cable, severed by the eruption and tsunami, is expected to reach Tonga “in the next few days”, the government said.

“Although there has been no further volcanic activity, challenges to sea transportation remain as fallout on the surface of the ocean is causing damage to the vessels.”

The National Emergency Operations Centre said water was their main request and they had distributed nearly 60,000 litres already. But the government said “water supplies have been tested: groundwater and clean water are safe to drink”.

Bulk water supplies and relief stores, donated from New Zealand, arrived last week, with more due to arrive from Australia early this week onboard the HMAS Adelaide.

Support has also been pledged from the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Japan and China.

“His Majesty’s government is deeply appreciative to the international community for their generous and timely assistance in response to this unprecedented event,” the Tongan government said.