350.org and the Pacific Climate Warriors express solidarity and grief for our friends and family in Tonga, Fiji and Samoa after the devastation of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption.
On January 15th, the underwater volcanic eruption in Tonga lasted at least eight minutes, spewing gas, ash and smoke into the air, and triggering tsunami waves that forced Tongans to evacuate their homes. The tsunami waves were also felt in Fiji and caused flooding as far as the US west coast.
With communication lines in Tonga still down, unofficial accounts of significant damage across the island nation are beginning to emerge. In the midst of battling a global pandemic, increasingly intense tropical cyclones, and rising sea levels, Tonga will have to assess the damage caused by the tsunami and begin to recover.
Joseph Zane Sikulu, 350.org Pacific Managing Director and Tongan Pacific Climate Warrior said,
“At the moment, our main priority will be to make sure that everyone is safe. Once we’ve been able to first ensure the safety of our people and understand the extent of the damage, then we will begin the slow and steady process of recovery.
The damage caused by this volcanic eruption significantly mirrors the devastating effects of intensifying climate impacts that islands in the Pacific must endure. For low-lying islands, there isn’t much higher ground to retreat to in the face of a tsunami, and neither will there be if our warming oceans continue to rise. This proves how susceptible our islands are to disasters and why we must continue to build the resilience of our people.
We will rebuild and recover, as we always have. As soon as we hear from our families and people on the ground, we will know how to move and we will follow their direction.”
Contact: Drue Slatter, [email protected]