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Volcano spews out toxic ash cloud

Wednesday 14 January 2015 | Published in Regional


NUKU‘ALOFA – The massive volcanic eruption in Tonga spewed large white plumes of ash high into the sky which could be seen clearly from Tongatapu this week.

Tongatapu, the main island in Tonga group, is about 60km away from the scene.

The Tongan government has warned people in the surrounding islands, especially Tongatapu and Ha’apai, that ash from the eruption could cause problems with breathing, skin and eyesight.

Some Tongans travelling from Australia were stuck in Auckland after their direct flight from Sydney to Tonga was redirected to Fiji to refuel before flying on to Auckland where it has been grounded until it is safe to complete the flight to Tonga.

In Fiji Tongans had to travel backwards and forwards between Suva and Nadi after several flights were cancelled because of the eruption.

Paula Moimoi Latu, who was on a flight from Australia to Tonga, said on Facebook last night: “I’m stuck in Auckland at the moment after almost landing in the Kingdom of Tonga yesterday.

“The flight was diverted to Samoa due to volcanic ash in the air, the aircraft refuelled and then took us back to Auckland last night. Now it seems today’s flight has been rescheduled and now cancelled! Might not get to Tonga until tomorrow!”

Sina Taholo Kami in Fiji said in Tongan: “I boarded a bus eight hours to (Suva-Nadi-Suva) today to travel to Tonga but it was cancelled. Yes nature has taken charge!!”

Yesterday she commented: “Just arrived Nadi airport. Told the flight to Tonga, cancelled again”.

The New Zealand High Commission in Tonga has published a statement on the internet warning New Zealanders of the volcanic eruption:

“There is currently no seismic activity or tsunami threat associated with the eruption, however some international and domestic flights in Tonga have been cancelled due to the ash cloud.

“We recommend that New Zealanders planning to travel to Tonga check with their airline for the latest information on further flight disruptions.”