The ‘Know Your Region’ series is designed to support unit and individual professional military education on the South East Asian region. It’s important for all serving members of our military to have a foundational knowledge of the countries and issues in the Indo-Pacific.

Jan 15, 2022 – Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai Volcanic Eruption and Tsunami

On 15 January 2022, the underwater HungaTonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano near Tonga erupted with a force that NASA scientists estimated to be hundreds of times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. The eruption obliterated an uninhabited island and unleashed a series of tsunami waves.

On Tonga’s main island, Tongatapu, the western coast was devastated, while the shoreline of Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, also suffered damages.

The tsunami tragically killed three people and forced the evacuation of thousands more to higher ground. It also caused significant damage to Tonga’s international and domestic undersea fibre-optic cables, temporarily severing communications with and within the island nation.

In addition to the tsunami, the eruption triggered a massive plume of ash, steam, and gas that reached above the stratosphere and covered Tongatapu in a heavy blanket of ash.

Few families in Tonga were left untouched by the destruction. An estimated 85,000 people were affected, including 36,500 children.

The disaster prompted a global humanitarian response. Australia played a key role in coordinating the relief effort, working closely with France and New Zealand (under the FRANZ agreement), Fiji, the United States, Japan, India, and the United Kingdom.

Overall, Australian naval vessels and RAAF flights delivered more than 370 tonnes of essential emergency relief supplies and equipment.

Tonga still recovering 1 year after devastating eruption, tsunami (