Water supply of the entire country of Tonga has been contaminated and people are struggling to access clean water. The country's crops have also been devastated, Cao Xiaolin, China's ambassador to Tonga, said in an interview with media on Tuesday.
Tonga's government delivered its first official statement on Tuesday after a massive undersea volcano erupted and triggered a tsunami. The government warned that the country has been hit by an "unprecedented disaster."
A large number of homes were destroyed on the west side of Tonga's main island and many people were relocated to shelters. The damage was worse in the third biggest archipelago, which is closer to the volcano eruption, where entire homes were damaged by the tsunami, Cao said. The exact number of casualties is still unknown.
Over 1,000 Chinese citizens living and working on Tonga's main island are safe, Cao said, noting that the embassy has asked the Tongan government to assist in checking the situation of Chinese citizens in the outlying islands and provide assistance as the communication between Tonga and the outside world has been interrupted.
After the eruption of the volcano, the Chinese embassy immediately launched the emergency response plan and strengthened communication with relevant departments in Tonga, sparing no efforts to protect the safety of Chinese citizens and institutions in Tonga, according to Cao.
However, the property damage is very serious. Volcanic ash is still in the air now, which can harm people's respiratory systems. The public has been asked to avoid going out and wear masks when traveling, Cao said. The public actively supports the emergency measures implemented by the local government to jointly cope with the disaster and tide over the difficulties.
The ambassador said they have visited and provided assistance to Chinese citizens hit by severe damages, and want to send safe messages to their families in China.
A woman surnamed Li in South China's Guangdong Province couldn't contact her husband living in Tonga and was worried. Later, the Chinese embassy in Tonga contacted her husband and confirmed he's safe.
On January 15, an undersea volcano erupted in Tonga, causing tsunamis and spewing volcanic ash several kilometers into the air.
China will deliver a batch of emergency supplies to Tonga as soon as possible at the request of the country once planes are able to fly into the region, China's Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.