Israel working to provide aid to Tonga after volcanic eruption

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid stated that Israel is exploring options to provide assistance through the Mashav aid agency.

A plume rises over Tonga when the underwater volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai erupted in this satellite image taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite operated by Japan Meteorological Agency, on January 15, 2022 (photo credit: National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT)/Handout via REUTERS)
A plume rises over Tonga when the underwater volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai erupted in this satellite image taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite operated by Japan Meteorological Agency, on January 15, 2022
(photo credit: National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT)/Handout via REUTERS)

Israel is exploring options to provide aid to Tonga after the archipelago was hit by a volcanic eruption and a tsunami on Saturday, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced on Sunday.

"On behalf of the people of Israel, I send my heartfelt sympathy to the people of Tonga impacted by the recent volcanic eruption & tsunami," tweeted Lapid. "Israel is exploring options to provide assistance, including ensuring access to safe drinking water, through our aid agency, Mashav."

MASHAV was launched in 1957 to provide humanitarian aid and to share Israeli expertise with developing nations regarding a variety of topics to help train professionals in medicine, development, education and agriculture.

Tsunami-hit Tonga remained largely uncontactable on Sunday with telephone and internet links severed, leaving relatives in faraway New Zealand praying for their families on the Pacific islands as casualty reports had yet to come through.

Mashav pavillion at DIHAD, 2021 (credit: Courtesy)Mashav pavillion at DIHAD, 2021 (credit: Courtesy)

An underwater volcano off Tonga erupted on Saturday, triggering warnings of 1.2-meter tsunami waves and evacuation orders on the shores of the island nation as well as several other South Pacific islands, where footage on social media showed waves crashing into coastal homes.

Internet and phone lines went down at about 6:40 p.m. local time on Saturday, leaving the 105,000 residents on the islands virtually uncontactable.

There are no official reports of injuries or deaths in Tonga yet, although communications are limited and contact has not been established with outlying coastal areas beyond the capital Nuku'alofa and closer to the volcano, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a news conference on Sunday.

Tonga, an island nation with around 105,000 residents, lies 2,383 kilometers (1,481 miles) northeast of New Zealand.

Australia said it will send a P8 surveillance aircraft to Tonga on Monday to assess damage to critical infrastructure such as roads, ports and power lines, which will determine the next phase of the response effort.

In the United States, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the country stands prepared to provide support.