Tonga marks first year since undersea volcanic eruption

A ceremony was held in Tonga on Friday to honor the victims of a deadly tsunami that hit the South Pacific island nation one year ago.

An undersea eruption occurred on January 15, 2022. The Tongan government said it triggered tsunami waves as high as 15 meters that struck the country's coasts. Officials confirmed four people died in the disaster.

Government officials and ambassadors from other countries attended the ceremony in the capital Nuku'alofa, held two days before the disaster's anniversary on Sunday. Participants offered a silent prayer for the victims.

Deputy Prime Minister Samiu Vaipulu said at the ceremony that his country's communities and economy had been destroyed by the events of January 15. He added that Tonga is still on track toward recovery and expressed gratitude for assistance from abroad.

Aid activities by international bodies and other countries, including the transportation of goods by the Japan Self-Defense Forces, were on display at the ceremony's venue.

The tsunami damaged undersea cables, disrupting Tonga's telecommunications. But one year on, the services are running again and the country has almost finished the removal of volcanic ash.

Restoration work, however, has yet to be fully completed and some island residents are still forced to live elsewhere.

Japan's Ambassador Munenaga Kensaku said Tonga is deeply interested in Japan and has a high opinion of its technological skills. He said he hopes to offer assistance to Tonga that address its needs for human resources and technology.