Local Tongan community working to get updates on situation after volcanic eruption near Tonga

KING COUNTY, Wash. — After a volcanic eruption undersea near Tonga early Saturday, New Zealand and Australia sent military flights on Monday to assess the damage left behind in the Pacific island nation.

The eruption was so strong, it triggered tsunami advisories here in western Washington and many other places.

The eruption cut the internet to Tonga, resulting in extremely limited communications to the island.

The company that owns the single underwater fiber-optic cable that connects the island nation to the rest of the world said it likely was severed in the eruption and repairs could take weeks.

The loss of the cable leaves most Tongans unable to use the internet or make phone calls abroad.

The island is reportedly blanketed in ash and the lowlands were hit extremely hard by massive waves.

KIRO 7 spoke with a member of the Pacific Islander Community Association of Washington, Toka Valu, who said watching media coverage following the disaster was difficult, especially since most of the coverage in the U.S. centered around the tsunami advisory on the West Coast.

“‘Oh, there’s this eruption in this kingdom in Tonga’ and then they don’t mention it again. And they’ll just say ‘we’re OK over here, nothing will happen to us.’ And then they’ll skip it to the next segment. And that’s a general feeling that’s always reflected in my experience of how media has treated our people — not just Tongans, but Pacific Islanders throughout the United States and throughout the world,” Valu said.

Valu told KIRO 7 the country’s roads, power grid and the entire infrastructure is badly beaten.

No casualties have been reported in Tonga although there are still concerns about people on some of the smaller islands near the volcano.

For anyone looking to help, Radio Tonga-Seattle is organizing efforts to send resources to the island.

They’re asking supporters to contact them directly online.

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