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Evacuation of Niuafo’ou 1946.

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Evacuation of Niuafo’ou 1946.

Postby Anatol » Tue Mar 19, 2019 3:48 pm

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In 1996, the Tongo Post issued a Miniature Sheet dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the evacuation of the inhabitants of the Niuafo’ou Island. Niuafoʻou was put on the European maps by Willem Schouten and Jacob Le Maire during their famous circumnavigation of the globe in 1616. Niuafo’ou is in the most northerly group of Tongan islands and is an active volcano. At the centre of the island is a huge lake of bubbling water. The coast is steep and rocky with just a few black sand beaches. Other names for the island are “Good Hope” island and “Tin Can” island. The name “Tin Can” Island comes from the 19th Century method of delivering mail to the island. Traders put mail and packages in sealed biscuit tin cans, tossed them overboard where they were retrieved by strong swimmers from the island. The name Niuafo’ou means “many new coconuts” in the native language.It is 710 km east of Fiji, 430 km SW from Samoa, and 3,000 km north of New Zealand. The volcano is active with at least 10 eruptions, both explosive and effusive since the 1800s. A major eruption in 1946 forced evacuation of most of the 1,200 inhabitants. The eyewitness Quensell told: "We were visited by some terrible earthquakes; some lasted forty minutes. The island was rocking for nine days with terrible force. It actually cracked to pieces with a long trench some two to four feet wide; the ground rose up and sank; we took to the hills some 500 feet above the sea. On the 9th of September the ground lifted some 25 to 30 feet in places, the earth opened and liquid lava poured out destroying three fourths of the township of Agaha. In less than five minutes the trees were swept away; my home was gone. It was terrible. We could get no help as we were 400 miles from Tonga. Our radio was gone. We did have food and water and were fairly safe in the hills". The 1946 eruption started on Monday, Sept. 9, 1946. It knocked out local radio communications for over a week. The Tonga government asked passing aircraft to take a look at the island a week later. The aircraft described volcanic activity at the north end of the island with part of a village being destroyed. This was the tenth eruption of Niuafo’ou in a little over a century. The main casualty of the eruption was the capital village of Angaha where the government buildings and supplies were obliterated. Yet the eruption had not touched the majority of gardens and villages on the island, unlike the 1943 eruption which killed most vegetation, dusting it with enough ash to cause a local famine. Earthquakes persisted well into the last week of September. Following the eruption, the Tonga government decided to evacuate the island. They held a local election to decide what to do. Nearly 1,100 chose to evacuate. 288 chose to stay. With this, the Tongan government chose to evacuate everyone. This decision was not universally popular among all residents, but they did move. Most were gone by the end of December with the remainder evacuated by the following October. Half of them returned in 1958 when permission to return was granted. There was a second fiery eruption in January 1947 reported by a passing yacht but at the time most of the population had left the island. Artist Aldo Cherini shows Niuafo’ou canoes (see fig.).
Ниуафо’оу 1996;(5х45+5ч60)Ms.SG(252-261). Source: ... era-tonga/
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