(CNN) – A thick layer of gray covering entire communities is seen in the first images of the victims Tonga It comes after experts believe it was the world’s largest volcanic eruption for more than 30 years.
Aerial photographs released by the New Zealand Defense Forces from the Hawaiian Islands in central Tonga show ash-covered trees, houses and fields erupted by the underwater volcano Hanga-Tonga-Hunga-Hapa when it erupted on Saturday. Tsunami waves hit the Pacific Ocean.
Satellite images show the same scene where trees and houses are completely covered by volcanic debris on the main island of Tonga, in the capital’s Kolofo district. Some buildings appear to have collapsed and aid workers are currently concerned about water pollution and food security in the district.
But as Tonga’s first deaths in the natural disaster were confirmed and rescue efforts continued, aid workers warned that the true extent of the devastation was unknown. Communications have been severely affected by the disaster, with some small islands completely cut off.
Alexander Mathieu, director of the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Cross, said that apart from the ash, there was “massive coastal damage as a result of the tsunami wave”.
“We are particularly concerned about the low-lying islands near the eruption,” he added. “At the moment, we know very little.”
According to officials from several donor countries, humanitarian aid to the country has been hampered by ash falling on the capital’s airport runway.
New Zealand will send two Royal Navy ships to another Pacific island nation on Tuesday, the country’s Defense Minister Beanie Henare said in a statement. He said it would take three days to reach Tonga.
Beanie said the two ships, including HMNZS Wellington and HMNZS Aotearoa, will carry a Seasprite helicopter and humanitarian and disaster relief supplies.
“In this case the water is primary to Tonga and HMNZS Aotearoa can carry 250,000 liters and the desalination plant can produce 70,000 liters per day,” he added.
Significant damage has been reported in Tonga, which has a population of more than 100,000, mostly on the island of Tongatabu. According to Shirana Ali, managing director of Save the Children Fiji, at least 100 houses have been damaged and at least 50 completely destroyed across the archipelago. But he added that the number is likely to rise as rescuers recover communications.
“This is a very unique crisis that we face due to the lack of communication … The biggest challenge right now is to get detailed information from the authorities and from Tonga,” Ali said. He also said that water shortages are expected in the coming days.
A major undersea communication cable connecting Tonga to Fiji has been damaged and repairs are not expected to begin until February 1.
“This cable is essential for Tonga to have all digital connections with the rest of the world,” Dean Weverka, chief technical officer and vice president of operations at South Cross Cables, said Tuesday.
Deaths in Tonga
At least two people, including a British citizen, have been killed in Tonga after tsunami waves hit the roads, submerging residential communities and cutting off electricity.
The body of British woman Angela Clover was found after she was swept away by a tsunami, her brother Nick Ellini said in a statement Monday.
Clover, 50, who lives in the capital Nuku’aloba with her husband and runs an animal welfare charity, tried to rescue her dogs when the waves hit, Elini said.
“Angela’s dream has always been to swim with whales, and Tonga gave her the opportunity to fulfill these dreams,” Ellini said.
According to experts, the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’boy volcano erupted on Saturday, the largest recorded volcanic event since the Pinatubo volcano erupted in the Philippines in 1991.
Photos and videos posted on social media shortly after the event showed people fleeing the tsunami and the sky darkened by a gray cloud. Boats and large rocks washed ashore in Nuku’aloba, while many businesses along the coast were damaged.
The tsunami was felt thousands of miles off the west coast of Japan, Hawaii and the United States. The Peruvian National Police announced this Sunday that at least two people have died in “strange waves” in Peru.
The volcano is located in the active Pacific Ring of Fire and is about 65 kilometers (40 miles) north of the capital of Tonga.
It has been active since December 20, but was declared inactive on January 11, according to CNN subsidiary Radio New Zealand.
Elizabeth Yee of CNN contributed to this story
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