Lessons Learned from Disasters in Tonga                  

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When the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai submarine volcano erupted on 15 January 2022, the ash from the eruption and the following tsunami caused widespread damage to resorts, homes, and businesses in Tonga and has claimed four lives.

On the same day, the undersea fibre-optic cable that connects Tonga to the rest of the world snapped, making it difficult for emergency service and the Tonga government to communicate and organize emergency and recovery services for its residents.

The volcanic eruption caused 70 earthquakes with intensity between 4 to 5 were recorded from 14 January to 5 February. These earthquakes overwhelmed Tonga’s emergency management systems.

The Tongans were still recovering from Cyclone Cody (Category 1), which hit them five days before the volcanic eruption and tsunami.

An article in the International Science Council says that the tsunami the volcanic eruption generated was enormous and arrived earlier at distant locations to thousands of miles away across the Pacific to the shores of Japan and Peru (Fakhruddin & Singh, 2022). Forecasting models did not account for the shockwaves from the eruption that amplified the wave.

The series of disasters that Tonga experienced in days is a classic example of complex, compounding, and cascading disasters.

It offers lessons and potential solutions in building better resilience to natural hazards and disasters and preparing for disaster events, and responding when it happens.

The article mentions the following lessons:

  • better forecasting of volcanic eruption and tsunami generation using probabilistic approaches,
  • the importance of critical infrastructure redundancy,
  • robust telecommunication infrastructure,
  • risk communication,
  • community preparedness,
  • rapid damage mapping, and
  • pre-impact scenarios.

Click the link provided in the “Source” below.


Fakhruddin, B., & Singh, E. (2022, February 14). Strengthening emergency communications for complex, cascading and compounding events – lessons learned from the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai eruption and tsunami in Tonga. International Science Council. Retrieved from https://council.science/current/blog/emergency-communications-complex-cascading-events-lessons-eruption-and-tsunami-in-tonga/

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