On January 15, 2022, the underwater volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai erupted in the Pacific Ocean with a blast heard in Alaska, nearly 6,000 miles away. Clouds of ash from the volcano covered nearby islands and tainted surrounding waters. This eruption put the Kingdom of Tonga, located 40 miles from the volcano, into a state of emergency and impacted nearly 84% of the archipelago’s residents.
We’re doing our best to stay up to date and are keeping in touch with our partnering kava farmers. Here’s the latest on what we know about the eruption and its impact on our kava community in Tonga.
About the Eruption
The Hunga Tonga Ha’apai volcano is located in the Ring of Fire, a chain of volcanoes that spreads across the Pacific Ocean. When it erupted in mid-January, it created clouds of ash that were up to 25 miles high and triggered tsunami warnings for nearby islands in the South Pacific. Scientists estimate that the amount of energy released by the eruption was equal to 4 to 18 megatons of TNT. Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai has erupted twice before in 2009 and 2014, but those eruptions were not as destructive as the one in January.
Eruption Impact on Tonga
Being so near to the volcano, Tonga was rocked by the massive eruption. Major undersea communication cables were severed, limiting communications to Tonga. These cables have recently been restored, which reopened communication to the island. However, the island was covered by ash from the volcano’s 300-mile ash cloud and damaged by the tsunami. On some islands, homes were completely destroyed by the tsunami and many people are still clearing debris and ash.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), there are still concerns about residents having access to safe drinking water and groundwater. Agriculture is the focal point of the Tongan economy—mainly crops and fish—and their agricultural sector has suffered from the eruption. The majority of livestock-raising households in Tonga now struggle from damaged land, contaminated water, and lost animals.
Aid & Relief Efforts
Right now, relief efforts are crucial to provide necessary aid to our friends and neighbors. Unfortunately, with COVID-19 just reaching the island nation, Tonga has been forced to lockdown. This has made relief efforts challenging, and many islands have struggled as boats haven’t been able to deliver groceries, gas, and other necessities.
In late January, the United States pledged over $2.5 million in humanitarian assistance to Tonga through the US Agency for International Development. Several other countries have followed suit in sending shipments of resources. To lessen the spread of COVID-19, the ships are attempting to deliver aid without making contact with island residents.
The Kalm With Kava Community & Farmers
We’re committed to our kava farmers and friends in the Pacific Islands and want to support our extended Kalm with Kava family. We’ve built strong partnerships and lasting friendships with our kava farmers and their local communities. Thankfully, we have been in constant contact with our farmers and can confirm that their families are safe and doing well. Local grocery stores have limited items and COVID lockdowns have stopped many shipments of goods, but our farmers have been able to get clean water and food. It can be difficult to be on the other side of the world when a crisis strikes. We want to do all we can to support the Tongan kava community. We will keep you updated on our kava farmers and surrounding communities as we learn more.
How to Stay in The Loop
To keep updated on how Tonga and the other South Pacific islands are recovering, New Zealand Red Cross has information on how their teams are helping with relief efforts and how you can donate to the cause.