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Nuku’alofa in Photos: Tonga’s capital blanketed in volcanic ash

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
The Basilica situated in Nuku'alofa, blanketed in volcanic ash. Photo: Kofeola Marian Kupu
The Basilica of St Anthony of Padua situated in Nuku’alofa, blanketed in volcanic ash. Photo: Kofeola Marian Kupu
Alice Lolohea | Reporter/Director/Videographer

With Digicel announcing they’ve established 2G connection for their customers in Tonga, images have started to emerge of what Tonga truly looks like from the ground.

Landmarks like The Basilica of St Anthony of Padua (pictured above) with its distinctive white roof now bears the aftermath of the January 15 eruption.

The usually colourful capital of Nuku’alofa is now awash in dust and volcanic ash.

But activity hasn’t stopped, clean-up efforts began earlier this week with reports of locals taking to Fua’amotu Airport with taufale (brooms) to clear the runway for planes laden with aid and support.

Clean-up began this week in Tongatapu. Photo: Kofeola Marian Kupu
Clean-up began this week in Tongatapu. Photo: Kofeola Marian Kupu
Photo: Kofeola Marian Kupu
Photo: Kofeola Marian Kupu
According to Radio Nuku'alofa, drivers have been advised to 'drive slowly' to avoid rising dust and ash.
According to Radio Nuku’alofa, drivers have been advised to ‘drive slowly’ to avoid rising dust and ash. Photo: Kofeola Marian Kupu

Tourist hot spot Ha’atafu Beach Resort in Tonga’s Hihifo district sustained severe damage along with the coastline and other villages in that area.

Operated by Moana and Hola Paea, Ha’atafu Beach Resort is one of Tonga’s well-known holiday and tourist hot-spots.

Now, it’s no longer recognisable – guest fales, resort facilities, personal belongings were swept away like sandcastles.

Moana’s brother Alan, who resides in New Zealand, managed to keep the resort’s Facebook page active with updates of the staff.

“From the time of the explosion to the tsunami hitting, they only had 10-15 minutes,” Alan wrote.

“Moana, Hola and the kids managed to get all the guests out safely, however this meant they had no time to save anything at all.

They had to flee through the back of the resort, through the bushes to get to safety.”

Residents in this area were eventually evacuated to Liahona where temporary camps have been set up for evacuees.

Alan has also set up a GoFundMe page to support the resort staff during this time.

Ha'atafu Beach Resort, taken in 2019. Photo: Ha'atafu Beach Resort FB
Ha’atafu Beach Resort, taken in 2019. Photo: Ha’atafu Beach Resort FB
The resort now unrecognisable in the aftermath of the Jan 15 tsunami
The resort now unrecognisable in the aftermath of the Jan 15 tsunami. Photo: Ha’atafu Beach Resort FB
Staff and guests of the resort all managed to escape into the trees before the tsunami hit the resort. Photo: Ha'atafu Beach resort FB
Staff and guests of the resort all managed to escape into the trees before the tsunami hit the resort. Photo: Ha’atafu Beach resort FB

Elsewhere, people begin the ominous task of clearing their homes and businesses of debris pushed inland by the tsunami waves.

Damaged houses, crumbled rocks and flattened vegetation are a stark reminder that the Pacific doesn’t always adhere to it’s given name.

Despite this, smiles and good spirits appear on the faces of those currently cleaning the capital.

It will be a mammoth task of restoration for a Kingdom still recovering from the effects of Cyclone Gita but with that signature resilience and can-do attitude, we will overcome.

 

Despite the recent tsunami, locals take to cleaning the capital in good spirits. Photo: Kofeola Marian Kupu
Despite the recent tsunami, locals take to cleaning the capital in good spirits. Photo: Kofeola Marian Kupu
Workers in front of the Tanoa International Dateline Hotel. The hotel's iconic clock covered in ash. Photo: Kofeola Marian Kupu
Workers in front of the Tanoa International Dateline Hotel. The hotel’s iconic clock covered in ash. Photo: Kofeola Marian Kupu
Locals begin cleaning the long stretch of Hala Tahi. Photo: Kofeola Marian Kupu
Locals begin cleaning the long stretch of Hala Tahi. Photo: Kofeola Marian Kupu
Hala Tahi littered with crumbled rock and debris.  Photo: Kofeola Marian Kupu
Hala Tahi littered with crumbled rock and debris.  Photo: Kofeola Marian Kupu
The dolphin statue outside the Royal Palace now dusted. Photo: Kofeola Marian Kupu
The dolphin statue outside the Royal Palace now dusted. Photo: Kofeola Marian Kupu

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