Tonga grapples with psychological trauma after volcanic ash, eruption and tsunami

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Rescuers and local residents say families are preventing children from playing outdoors as Tonga grapples with the ash and psychological fallout from last week’s volcanic eruption and tsunami. Telephone service is interrupted.

The Red Cross said it not only provided tents, food, water and toilets, but also comfort facilities for 173 families on the main island of Tonga. “Everyone is still having problems right now,” said Drew Havea, vice-president of the Tonga Red Cross.

Because of the ashes, “families made sure their kids weren’t playing outside and everyone was inside,” he said.

While some residents of the hardest-hit outer islands of Ha’apai have been evacuated to the main island of Tongatapu, others have refused to go, Havea said. He said the psychological impact of the waves breaking and destroying the village would affect their lives for some time. “All the kids grow up and they’re taught in geography class that this is the circle of fire we all live in.

Now I think we’re very concerned and we’re starting to think, ‘How active are these places? he told Reuters. The eruption of the HungaTonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano on the seismically active Pacific Ring of Fire sent tsunami waves across the Pacific and could be heard 2,300 kilometers (1,430 miles) away in New Zealand.

The eruption was so powerful that space satellites captured not only the huge ash cloud, but also the atmospheric shock waves radiating from the volcano at near-sonic speeds.

“I thought the end of the world was coming,” recalls John Tukuav, owner of the beach resort Wakaloa, who had to scramble to rescue his wife from the tsunami.

The resort is located in Kanokupolu, one of the hardest-hit areas in Tongatapu. Uprooted trees and debris are now located in the area where the complex is located. He said it took many people a week to recover from the “throbbing and terrifying” sound of the eruption.

“It was too loud to hear, but I could feel it. Until the big bang,” she told Reuters by phone on Sunday, Fonua said residents hoped tropical rain would wash away the “terrible and itchy” volcanic dust. The leaves on the tree have turned brown and are falling off.

Fonua said she was on the phone with her son in New Zealand from her waterfront office when the tsunami hit. When the line broke, he feared she had been swept away.

The anxiety of many overseas Tongan families has been prolonged in the days when limited international call capacity was restored.

Fonua said Tongans were cut off from the world and relief work began immediately.

She said older Tongans with a tradition of self-reliance said young people were being forced to stop looking at smartphones and get moving.

A week after power was restored, the Matangi Tonga website published its first story on Saturday since the eruption and tsunami, describing a “rain of pumice stones” as volcanic debris fell from the sky and waves engulfed cars.

Fonua said her office was still unable to send emails and Tonga needed more satellite capacity.

Arriving international naval ships and flights brought much-needed supplies and communications equipment, she said.




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