Tonga tsunami: Entire islands destroyed as devastation revealed after volcano erupts

January 18, 2022

Entire villages have been wiped out in Tonga as the destruction from Saturday’s tsunami begins to be revealed.

Atata, an island close to the capital, has seen most of its buildings destroyed and people who work at a holiday resort are believed to be missing.

Sky News has looked at some of the islands which have been amongst the worst hit.


A 20-minute boat ride from the capital Nuku'alofa, the island was home to 61 people and housed a school and a holiday resort.

But more recent images show the aftermath of the tsunami hitting the island, where almost all the buildings have been destroyed.

Facebook posts by the hotel showed that most on the island were evacuated or reached higher ground, but that three people who worked at the resort remained unaccounted for.

Remote islands to the northeast of the eruption, almost 100 miles from the country's main island, have also been particularly badly hit.

Mango Island

On Mango Island at least 20 buildings - home to the island's 36 inhabitants - have been lost to the tsunami.

At least one of those who call the island home, a 65-year-old woman, died in the wake of the damage, according to a government announcement on Tuesday.

Imagery now shows makeshift tarpaulin structures across the beach as the evacuation effort continues.

Mango island is one of three in the area, alongside Fonoifua and Nomuka, which have been severely damaged.


All but two structures on Fonoifua island, six miles northeast of Mango Island, have been destroyed or extensively damaged.

An evacuation effort is underway for the 32 people there, according to 2016 figures, and medical responders have been deployed.


On Nomuka, six miles northwest of Mango, debris can be seen scattered in the pond on the south of the island. Almost all coastal buildings were destroyed.

Nuku'alofa and airport

Further south, the capital Nuku'alofa had comparably less damage.

Low lying homes were moderately damaged and the city, including its port, experienced flooding. The area was also covered in a layer of ash.

Ash can be seen on Fua'amota International Airport's runways, leaving them unserviceable. Groups were pictured attempting to clear them using shovels and wheelbarrows.

Lifuka Island Airport, over 110 miles north of the capital, is also assumed to be unserviceable due to ash.

This has hampered relief efforts such as the delivery of fresh supplies and is one of many infrastructures issues now facing Tonga.

The Data and Forensics team is a multi-skilled unit dedicated to providing transparent journalism from Sky News. We gather, analyse and visualise data to tell data-driven stories. We combine traditional reporting skills with advanced analysis of satellite images, social media and other open source information. Through multimedia storytelling we aim to better explain the world while also showing how our journalism is done.

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