Volcano, tsunami devastation Tonga, urgent need support

Alexandria, Virginia — This edition of Indo-Pacific: Behind the headline, we’ll talk to Tonga veteran journalist, security analyst, and strategic communications consultant Tevita Moturaro.

A large-scale volcanic eruption on January 15 broke the country’s underwater fiber optic cable, causing a tsunami that struck far away from Japan and California, severely disrupting communications with Tonga. rice field. Motulalo in Tonga answered the question in text during a short time frame of stable communication.

Q: Can you explain what happened?

A: It started a few weeks ago. The volcano had been erupting ash and smoke for weeks, but the normal wind direction was east-southeast, so it carried effluent northeast towards Fiji.

When the volcano reignites and there are signs of an eruption. The National Meteorological Agency did its best as they could. However, there is relatively little public or political interest in important and important security issues, especially including non-traditional security threats such as environmental disasters.

A more violent eruption was recorded on Friday before the eruption, and a tsunami warning was issued after sulfuric acid gas reached the entire main island of Tongatapu.The wind turned in the opposite direction [weather] A recession continues just above New Zealand’s North Island, which has blown a huge pillar of ash towards Tongatapu, where most of the population lives.

The evacuation took place, but it was completely new. By the end of Friday, all we saw was a dramatic change in the tide in the afternoon. And the tsunami warning issued earlier was canceled.

Epoch Times Photo
Tevita Maturaro
(Provided by Tevita Motulalo)

Around 5 pm on Saturday, I now heard the first sound of a very big explosion. It was as if the heavens were about to tear apart. Since ancient times there have been very large cracks that have not been experienced in our living experience — and the elders have lived through several eruptions of their own and national evacuation. Glass and curtains were blown out of the windows in places.

Shortly thereafter, the first wave arrived. All I have to say is that none of the early warning systems worked. What worked was a big explosion from a volcano. We were joking with each other, but it was big enough for the hearing impaired to hear it and for the visually impaired to see it.

Traffic began to congest in major veins, leading traffic from the city to the higher parts of the island. When the waves came, most people who knew that the tsunami warning had been issued the day before had moved inland.

The warning system failed on the fly. The National Meteorological Agency went offline with the cancellation of the tsunami the day before. There are no updates. And at the moment of the explosion, the Cabinet was on the outskirts of the island for a while. They had to overcome the flood of traffic to get back to the station.

A huge smoke column from the volcano was fired straight from the horizon into the sky and could be seen until it was no longer visible. It’s as if it’s erupting into the universe itself. Then a huge vague shadow of dust turned into a mushroom behind the heavens, covering half of the sky.

About an hour after the explosion, small volcanic pumice and 0.5 cm pebbles landed. Shortly thereafter, the ashes arrived. It also arrived with strong gusts that blew debris everywhere. This forced cars full of women and children to close the windows, making the interior look like a small oven.

When the waves hit, the western belt of the island (about 2 miles wide) was hit by the waves. The waves broke on one beach, ran through the land and flowed to the other.

Immediately, the Internet and cellular communications came and went. A few hours later, the ashes of the pile shorted the transformer and needed to be turned off. And at the top of the inland hills and shelters, we were in the darkness of orange-reddish shades.

It was almost biblical: strong gusts, stinging falling pebbles, and dazzling ashes accompanied by female mourning and squeaky screams of babies and toddlers-and their waves wiped. Leaving part of the whispering island between father and son guarding outside the car, they are now on their way. From fear, from heat, from water shortages, and from the overall situation. If there was a picture of Sheol, crying and bruxing, I would probably be the closest.

The evacuees were stuck on a thirsty hill right next to the reservoir of a state-owned water company. I managed to get in touch with my company’s cousin and ask the facility operator to open the faucet.

However, in a few more hours, clouds of ash were scattered, and after a few hours, it became clear that the water had receded and the waves had receded.

Q: How is the situation now?

A: We live in the shockwave experience of several Hiroshima bombs exploding in the neighborhood. Three people have died.Most of the waterfront [in the capital, Nuku’alofa] It’s gone. The Hihifo belt overruns from coast to coast. There are capital ports, fuel depots and fuel terminal lines. But people are great.

The biggest challenge at the moment is energy. The unloading line from the tanker was damaged. I don’t know if it is in stock.Tongatapu [the capital] There is plenty of fuel available in stock. But it doesn’t last long. They said it was enough, but I feel they are just saying it to calm the fear of shortage. But if we run out of fuel, we are short of water and electricity. All communication is cut off. Rescue activities have ended.

The food supply on the main island is okay. Remote islands may need food, and their crops and soil have been damaged by salt water as they were struck by the waves.Damage monitoring is underway at Ha’apai [one of the outer island groups]..

By the time the tsunami hit, we had expected a serious situation. [atmospheric] Depression can develop into a cyclone between us and Samoa. People are preparing for:

Until yesterday [Saturday in Tonga] Only the local FM station was still in operation. Our communications infrastructure has been almost completely summed up. There was no contact. All lines are down. Satellite phones are limited. We are in the dark. Therefore, the situation in other parts of the country is not clear.

So far, there have been no adverse “problems” due to recovery, and no reports of extreme human suffering, except for the loss of housing and housing throughout the village and three deaths. Other injuries occurred, but of course there were no reports of life-sustaining or life-threatening except for incompetence, corruption, fraud management, or the systemic failure of the facility suffering all at the same time.

One good story? All the inhabitants of Atata Island were wiped out by the sea. All but one are back. A large search operation has been performed.The missing man managed to swim from Atata to the main island [around 13 kms, via two small islands]And reported that it was found again at the Central Police Station.

Q: How is the recovery going?

A: Recovery is handled to the fullest extent by the government. It’s a new government and I’ve just sworn in. The cabinet is still directly operated. But there is no “depth” in government planning. Everything is almost ad hoc. There are no contingencies or redundancy. And we are in the middle of the cyclone season. There was a king tide last week because it was a full moon. It was a perfect storm. So far I’ve escaped “easily”.

Despite millions of people devoting themselves to it over the years, the communications infrastructure is laughable so far. Therefore, super-redundant services like Starlink are absolutely relevant at this time. This applies to energy in terms of distributed virtual power plants and making homes pure generators as well as consumers.

The bureaucracy needs to upgrade its operational system, and Congress and the Cabinet do not have to properly consider security (rather than securitization) and rely entirely on traditional military doctrine. So far, civil defense, which seems to be the most effective in mobilizing non-traditional security cases, should be considered.

Q: Are there any other issues you are concerned about?

A: The retail industry, which supplies proteins, drinking water and other household foods to households, is largely dominated by Chinese investment. It tried price cuts very often during a country shortage — and I’m not just talking since the pandemic. On tsunami nights, people often stopped by for water and food, closing doors and recognizing the achievements of those in need. This should be illegal.

Also, if these stores are hit, Tonga’s taxes will put them at the forefront of government support. People may not care too much about them entering the country and bribing officials to make their property out of Tonga’s poverty, but if they behave this way it becomes really ugly. And emotions are starting to get sour from those reports.

Q: Is there anything you are paying attention to in foreign aid?

A: You can actually use something like the US Marine Corps HA / DR Logistics and Training Center in this area. Probably even a quad. Or, during this crisis, a visit from a Marine expeditionary unit, or, like an LHD, like a US Navy deployment as seen in the area at the time of the crisis. Meanwhile, China is trying to provide a great deal of support following this event.

Tevita Motulalo is a co-founder of the Royal Oceania Institute, an independent think tank in the Kingdom of Tonga, and was formerly a senior researcher at the Gateway House think tank in Mumbai. He received a master’s degree from the Faculty of Geopolitics and International Relations in Manipal, India.

Cleo Pascal is a correspondent for Sunday Guardian and a Senior Fellow of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Reissued from SundayGuardianLive

Cleo Pascal