Three unconfirmed deaths in Tonga - NZ's High Commissioner

Source: 1News

Tonga has three unconfirmed deaths following the tsunami at the weekend, New Zealand’s Acting High Commissioner has said.

So far, British woman Angela Glover is the only death that has been reported. It is unclear whether Glover is included in the three unconfirmed deaths.

She was swept away in the tsunami on Saturday, following the volcanic eruption.

Defence Minister Peeni Henare told 1News two deaths had been confirmed including Glover.

Henare said Monday's NZDF surveillance flight saw a mix of "quite overwhelming damage to rather small damage to coastal areas".

NZ's Acting High Commissioner to Tonga, Peter Lund, said there was some damage to the nation’s capital, Nuku’alofa but the western side of the island, Tongatapu, saw more destruction.

“It appears that there was a lot of very serious damage on the west coast of Tongatapu, the beaches there.

“That area has been hit very bad and reports are still coming in in terms of the damage.”

He said a huge clean up operation was underway in Tonga’s capital of Nuku’alofa, with a lot of rubble and rock as a result of the tsunami.

The town was also blanketed in a thick film of volcanic dust.

“Some damage to the buildings there [in the capital] but Nuku’alofa’s trying to get back to normal."

Lund said he had no confirmation of other deaths. But there were “reports of up to three fatalities”.

“But that has not yet been confirmed,” he said.

Read more: Satellite images reveal devastation of Tonga eruption, tsunami

Tongan Deputy Prime Minister Poasi Tei has declared a state of emergency, according to Lund, and communication is still down.

New Zealand is also sending two naval ships to Tonga, after ash on Nuku’alofa airport's runway prevented the landing of the Hercules flight that was scheduled to bring in aid.

The ships will take over urgent supplies including water and also survey and diving teams to assess the shipping channels and ports.