That was the Pacific year that was …

WHEN the Pacific looks back on the year 2022, the Tongan volcano eruption and Covid-19 will be the stand-out events.
That was the Pacific year that was … That was the Pacific year that was … That was the Pacific year that was … That was the Pacific year that was … That was the Pacific year that was …

Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano

Staff Reporter

But there was a lot more going on across the Blue Continent - including climate discussions and political uncertainty.
 
Radio New Zealand Pacific's Bulletin editor, Christina Persico, takes a look in the rear-view mirror.
 
A powerful undersea volcano eruption took place in Tonga on January 14, with the latest eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano coming just a few hours after a tsunami warning was lifted. 
 
After intermittent eruptions at the end of 2021, the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai volcano became a one-in-1000-years disaster on January 15.
 
A tsunami hit Tonga after the volcano erupted for eight minutes, throwing clouds of ash into the sky. Entire villages were wiped out by the waves.
 
Communications went down or became intermittent for those trying to reach loved ones.
 
Shock waves traversed many thousands of kilometres, were seen from space, and recorded in New Zealand about 2000km away.
 
Three people were killed, and medical experts said many others showed signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.
 
"They thought it was World War Three," Amanaki Misa, the Pacific Medical Association team leader stationed in Tonga, said at the time.
 
Scientists have been studying the eruption since. NASA said it caused what is likely the highest plume on record, reaching the third layer of the atmosphere.
 
Tonga is still recovering, and the eruption will be commemorated on its anniversary in the 2023.
 
In 2022, the world started opening up again after two years of closed borders and separation.
 
Covid deaths varied by country - from 13 in Kiribati and 14 in Vanuatu to hundreds in Papua New Guinea and Fiji.
 
Fiji was among the first to reopen its borders at the end of 2021, and a year on, tourism was back with a vengeance - the country welcomed 520,000 tourists to its shores in the 12 months to early December.
 
An injection of $FJ805 million came into its economy from international visitor arrivals between April and August.
 
The Northern Marianas had reopened to fully vaccinated visitors by early February, about the same time there were hundreds of cases in Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Tahiti and New Caledonia.
 
Other nations opened to the world a few months later - Vanuatu and Solomon Islands in July, Samoa and the Federated States of Micronesia in August, and the Marshall Islands in September.
 
The Marshall Islands was praised by health officials for its response to Covid.
 
"The Marshall Islands has exceeded most expectations to deliver testing and treatment for large numbers of people, and to provide care for those with Covid," said Dr Richard Brostrom, a CDC field medical officer, who spent 10 days in the Marshall Islands during the outbreak in mid-August.

 

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