Salt water from the tsunami and falling ash have ruined most water sources on the islands and Tongans are struggling to find clean water as they clear the ash.
“We’ve been cleaning up the ashes and have been since Monday,” said Branko Sugar, 61, who runs a bottle shop and fishing charter business in Nuku’alofa.
“Everything is so dusty and we’re running out of water,” he said over a patchy phone line.
“We only have tap water, and it has been contaminated. We… can barely breathe for all the dust.
The first relief flights from Australia and New Zealand landed in Tonga on Thursday with water for sanitation and hygiene as well as shelter, communications equipment and generators.
Australia’s HMAS Adelaide is en route from Brisbane and is due to sail to Tonga next week.
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center said the force of last Saturday’s eruption was estimated at 5 to 10 megatons of TNT, more than 500 times that of the nuclear bomb the United States dropped on the city. of Hiroshima at the end of World War II.
Astronaut Kayla Barron said she could see volcanic ash in the atmosphere from the International Space Station.
“I opened the window pane to see if we could see the effects of the eruption and saw this spectacular high altitude plume blocking out the sun,” Barron posted on Facebook.
NASA has released photographs showing a huge gray patch on the blue Pacific.
United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric told a press briefing that Tonga had requested emergency assistance.
“We remain seriously concerned about access to clean water for 50,000 people… Water quality testing continues and most people rely on bottled water,” he said before the arrival of the Aotearoa.
Some 60,000 Tongans have been affected by damage to crops, livestock and fisheries due to ashfall, saltwater intrusion and the potential for acid rain, Dujarric said.
Fuel shortages have also been reported, he added.
Telephone links between Tonga and the outside world were restored late Wednesday, although full restoration of internet service is likely to take a month or more.