NEWS

How It Affects YOU

Dr Fong said while the ministry has not reported any cases of respiratory infections from the eastern parts of Fiji, it was already working on ensuring that pre-emptive measures were in place for any worst case scenario.
18 Jan 2022 12:03
How It Affects YOU
Eruption at Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai, witnessed by Tongan Geological Services observer team on January 14, 2022. Photo: Taaniela Kula/TGS

Volcanic ash expelled from an eruption in Tonga may affect Fijians with pre-existing respiratory and cardiovascular disease, says the Ministry of Health and Medical Services.

Permanent Secretary Dr James Fong said they were keeping a close watch on the situation together with other government agencies.

The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haʻapai volcano erupted on Saturday bringing volcanic ash with a mixture of rock, mineral and glass particles into Fijian air.

The Fiji Meteorological Services has warned that if the eruption and prevailing winds continue at current levels, airborne ash could reach Central Lau and even Eastern Viti Levu in the coming days.

Dr Fong said while the ministry has not reported any cases of respiratory infections from the eastern parts of Fiji, it was already working on ensuring that pre-emptive measures were in place for any worst case scenario.

He said the ministry had already worked on a list of vulnerable people to ensure closer monitoring and facilitate timely access to medical care.

 

Health Risks

The Ministry of Health is reminding members of the public that exposure to ash can lead to:

  • Irritation of the eyes, skin, and respiratory system.
  • While short-term exposure to ash is not known to pose a significant health hazard to healthy individuals, it may cause sensitive individuals such as infants, children, and the elderly to experience difficulty breathing.
  • individuals with respiratory conditions such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma are more at risk for developing acute respiratory symptoms from breathing volcanic ash.

 

NDMO

The National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) has advised members of the public living in the maritime islands within the Eastern Division to take precautionary measures to avoid exposure to airborne ash.

The Services said that airborne ash was occurring over the southernmost islands from Vatoa southward, with medium to light airborne ash as far north as Tubou and Moala, and about to move into Kadavu.

According to the International Volcanic Health Hazard Network – Health Hazard Guideline:

  • Protect and cover rainwater supplies from volcanic ash
  • Disconnect drain pipes and downspouts from gutters to prevent drains from clogging and to allow ash and water to empty onto ground.
  • If you use a rainwater collection system, disconnect the tank prior to ash fall.
  • Protect your lungs and eyes from ash-fall, during and after: Stay indoors and away from volcanic ash-fall areas if possible.
  • Wear a mask to protect against lung irritation from small particles.

 

Acidic Rain

The Department of Environment has continually monitored the air quality in Fiji.

Based on the satellite image data, the department confirms that the Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) concentration in the atmosphere has increased overnight which could result in acidic rainfall over the Fiji group.

As previously advised, the Department of Environment is requesting that members of the public cover all household water tanks and stay indoors in the event of rain due to the risk of acid rain.

Meanwhile, the acting Prime Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum talked to his Tongan counterpart Siaosi Sovaleni offering Fiji’s assistance.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum has also been in talks with New Zealand High Commission on how Fijian troops can get to Tonga and assist in whichever way needed.

Feedbackinoke.rabonu@fijisun.com.fj

 

 

 



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