Despite huge volcano blast, Tonga avoids widespread disaster

    View of Nomuka, Tonga taken by a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion during a reconnaissance flight on Monday 17 January. (Photo Credit: NZDF.)

    WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Despite sitting almost on top of the volcano that erupted so violently, the Pacific nation of Tonga appears to have avoided the widespread devastation that many initially feared.

    Tonga has so far reported three deaths, and concerns remain for the fate of people on two smaller islands where most houses were destroyed.

    But on Tonga's main island, perhaps the biggest problem is the ash that has transformed it into a gray moonscape, contaminating the rainwater that people rely on to drink.

    Communications have been down, making assessments more difficult.

    On the main island, at least, life is slowly returning to normal.

    New Zealand is preparing much-needed supplies, but said ash on the runway will delay the flight at least a day.

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