Aerial images taken of Tonga on Tuesday offered the first glimpse of the destruction inflicted by the volcanic eruption and tsunami — as the government revealed all homes on one of its islands were wiped out and at least three people had been killed.
In its first statement since the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha'apai volcano erupted three days ago and triggered 49-foot tsunami waves, the Tongan government said the kingdom of islands had suffered an "unprecedented disaster."
At least three people have been confirmed dead, including British charity worker Angela Glover, 50, and two Tongans — a 65-year-old woman and 49-year-old man — who lived on separate low-lying islands.
As the damage assessment continued in the wake of the natural disaster, harrowing aerial images taken by a New Zealand military surveillance flight showed several islands entirely blanketed in volcanic ash.
The government said all homes on Mango Island, which is close to the volcano, were completely destroyed.
A view from a helicopter shows ash settled over the island.EPA The overall damage assessment is still ongoing.EPA
Only two houses were still standing on Fonoifua Island, while Nomuka Island suffered extensive damage, the government said.
"Water supplies have been seriously affected by the volcanic ash," the government said in its statement.
The recovery and aid efforts have so far been hampered by falling ash and the fact that Tonga's single underwater communication cable was severed in the eruption.
Internet was still down on the islands but some local phone lines have since been restored, according to the government.
First contact with some of the outer islands was only made on Monday when the government was able to deploy patrol boats. Active distress signals had been detected near the islands of Fonoi and Mango earlier on Monday.
Evacuations were still underway for some islands on Tuesday, the government said.
New Zealand's military was sending fresh water and other much-needed supplies, but said Tuesday that the ash covering Tonga's main runway would delay the flight at least another day.
Australia had also sent a navy ship from Sydney to Brisbane to prepare for a support mission if needed.