Pacific volcano: Body of British woman swept away in Tonga tsunami found

·7-min read
Angela Glover, who has been reported missing
Angela Glover, who has been reported missing

The body of a British charity worker has been found after she was swept away by the tsunami in Tonga as she tried to rescue her dogs.

Angela Glover, originally from Brighton, had been caught in the surging tide with her husband, James, after an undersea volcano erupted near the country on Saturday.

British woman Angela Glover was missing after she was washed away by a wave when she and her husband, James, who own the Happy Sailor Tattoo in Nuku'alofa, had gone to get their dogs
British woman Angela Glover was missing after she was washed away by a wave when she and her husband, James, who own the Happy Sailor Tattoo in Nuku'alofa, had gone to get their dogs

It was the first death confirmed on the island nation in the wake of the disaster, which inflicted significant damage on the capital, Nuku'alofa, and brought down communication lines.

The volcanic eruption was so powerful it flooded coastlines from Japan to the United States.

Ms Glover’s brother, Nick Eleini, confirmed on Monday that a body had been found in the search for his sister.

The 50-year-old ran her own animal rescue shelter and was said to have been attempting to rescue up to five dogs with her husband when they were engulfed by the wave.

Mr Glover clung to a tree to avoid being washed away, but Ms Glover lost her grip. Only one of their dogs is believed to have been recovered.

Mr Eleini flew from his home in Sydney, Australia, to be with their mother, Jennifer, 85, at her home in Hove, East Sussex.

Speaking on Monday, he said: “I haven’t even got the words in my vocabulary to describe how we’re feeling at the moment. This is just such a terrible shock.

"I understand this terrible accident came about as they tried to rescue their dogs. Angela and James loved their life in Tonga and adored the Tonga people."

Paying tribute to his sister, he added: "She was beautiful, she was absolutely a ray of sunshine. She would walk into a room and just light the room up. She loved her life, both when she was working in London and then she achieved her life's dream of living in the South Pacific.

"We are so proud of her achievements in such a short time in Tonga, starting a business and creating a life there. She loved animals and dogs particularly - the uglier the dog, the more she loved it. She was just a lovely girl, she was the centre of our family and we are just broken."

Ms Glover and her husband moved to Tonga in 2015, where she started the Tonga Animal Welfare Society to provide shelter for stray dogs. He opened the Happy Sailor Tattoo Parlour in the capital.

Donna Head, a friend of Ms Glover, wrote on social media: "I have no words other than I’m utterly heartbroken and numb. May our beautiful friend rest in peace. Ange, I will look out for your mum, I promise."

The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano exploded on Saturday, triggering a Pacific-wide tsunami and releasing shock waves that wrapped around the entire earth.

It was one the largest recorded in decades, erupting 30 kilometres into the air and depositing ash, gas and acid rain across a swathe of the Pacific.

Experts said the volcano, which last erupted in 2014, had been expelling smoke and ash for about a month before rising magma, superheated to around 1,000 degrees Celsius, met with 20C seawater on Saturday - causing an instantaneous and gigantic explosion.

The eruption was its most powerful since AD 1100.

The "astounding" speed and scale of the eruption indicated a greater force at play than simply magma meeting water, scientists said.

Some volcanologists are likening it to the 1991 Pinatubo eruption in the Philippines, the second-largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century, which killed around 800 people.

Australia and New Zealand sent surveillance flights on Monday to assess the damage, as the Tongan government appealed for international help to provide fresh drinking water and food.

But with phone lines still down and an undersea internet cable cut - and not expected to be repaired for weeks - the true toll of the dual eruption-tsunami disaster is not yet known.

Information from the country has been hard to come by, due to the communication problems caused by the disaster. Mr Glover’s husband was reported to have used a satellite phone at the British Embassy to contact her frantic family.

Only fragments of information have filtered out via a handful of satellite phones on the islands, home to just over 100,000 people. Tonga’s overseas community faces an anxious wait to check on their relatives’ welfare.

Snippets of news from the ground have emerged from the islands via diplomats with satellite phones. In a social media post, Peter Lund, New Zealand’s acting high commissioner, said “it’s been an awful time”. He said Nuku’alofa was “still standing” but blanketed in ash.

He added that the tsunami “walloped” west coast resorts as well as the Nuku’alofa waterfront, and that there were some missing people.

Although the main airport remains intact, on Monday the New Zealand military said ash on the runway could delay the landing of an air force Hercules. However, the navy’s new supply ship HMNZS Aotearoa will set sail for the area on Tuesday.

Preparations are also being made to send a specialist cable repair ship from Papua New Guinea to fix an underwater cable and restore Tonga’s internet.

Mosese Sitapa, one of more than 30,000 Tongans in Australia, said he was video-calling his four-year-old son, Elone, when the tsunami smashed through their home in Tonga.

"I just talked to him and he kept playing with his toys. It was so sad," he said. He hasn’t heard from Elone or his mother since.

Lupe Fisi’ikaile, a Tongan living in the Australian capital, told the Canberra Times she had not been able to contact her 72-year-old mother or brother’s family.

“I didn’t want to tell my kids and niece at first but I knew it was going to come up with all the news. Their first question after I told them was ‘is Mama okay?’ and I had to tell them we don’t know,” Ms Fisi’ikaile said.

Zed Seselja, Australia’s minister for the Pacific, said initial reports suggested there had been no mass casualties, but there was “significant damage” to roads and bridges.

Up to 80,000 people there could be affected, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies told the BBC.

"One of the good pieces of news is that I understand the airport has not suffered any significant damage," the minister added.

"That will be very, very important as the ash cloud clears and we are able to have flights coming into Tonga for humanitarian purposes."

Tonga's worried neighbours are still scrambling to grasp the scale of the damage, which Jacinda Ardern - New Zealand's leader - said was believed to be "significant".

Both Wellington and Canberra scrambled reconnaissance planes Monday in an attempt to get a sense of the damage from the air.

And both have put C-130 military transport aircraft on standby to drop emergency supplies or to land if runways are deemed operational and ash clouds allow.

Tsunami - KYODO
Tsunami - KYODO

Major aid agencies, who would usually rush in to provide emergency humanitarian relief, said they were stuck in a holding pattern, unable to contact local staff.

"From what little updates we have, the scale of the devastation could be immense - especially for outlying islands," said Katie Greenwood, the International Federation of Red Cross's Pacific head of delegation.

Even when relief efforts get under way, they may be complicated by Covid-19 entry restrictions. Tonga only recently reported its first-ever coronavirus case.

In pictures: Tonga volcano

An eruption occurs at the underwater volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai off Tonga - Tonga Geological Services/Reuters
An eruption occurs at the underwater volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai off Tonga - Tonga Geological Services/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 - 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 - Reuters
Some fish boats are sunk and overturned after tsunami on January 16, 2022 in Muroto, Kochi, Japan - The Asahi Shimbun
Some fish boats are sunk and overturned after tsunami on January 16, 2022 in Muroto, Kochi, Japan - The Asahi Shimbun
Water from a tsunami caused by an underground volcano near Tonga hits the Small Craft Harbor in Santa Cruz, California - The Santa Cruz Sentinel
Water from a tsunami caused by an underground volcano near Tonga hits the Small Craft Harbor in Santa Cruz, California - The Santa Cruz Sentinel
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