He said : "We knew something catastrophic had happened."

Vava' u, which is several hundred kilometres away from the main island of Tonga, had a "light dusting of ash" from the volcano.

Military surveillance flights have been sent from Australia and New Zealand to assess the damage caused by Saturday's eruption from the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai volcano.

It has been largely cut off from the world after an undersea communication cable was severed- repairs will take some time and there is still volcanic activity in the area.

just over 100,000 people live in tonga, the bulk of them on the main island."

the government has confirmed three deaths- two locals and british national angela glover- in its first update since a volcanic eruption and tsunami.

New Zealand is trying to send clean drinking water and other supplies but planes can not land at the main airport.

"We thought that it would be operational [ Tuesday ], but it hasn't been fully cleared yet because more ash has been falling," Jonathan Veitch told reporters.

Communications with the island chain have been disrupted after the single underwater cable connecting Tonga to the rest of the world was severed in the eruption.

tongans abroad have since been waiting for news from relatives and loved ones.

Saturday's volcanic eruption was felt as far away as the US.

In Peru, two people drowned in abnormally high waves while beaches near the capital Lima were closed off following an oil spill.

They were taken by the New Zealand defence force during a reconnaissance flight on Monday and put together in a report for the Tongan government.

Atata island was noted to have “ a large number of buildings missing.

"Catastrophic damage was observed with the entire village destroyed.

Debris was observed throughout the village," said the annotated image.

the images also gave a sense of the damage to tonga's infrastructure sustained during the tsunami becomes clear.

However, the defence force noted that an operation to clear ash from the runway was under way, with vehicles and people visible from the air.

An underwater volcano erupted on Saturday, showering Tonga with ash and triggering a tsunami.

On Tuesday, New Zealand's ministry of foreign affairs and trade said there had been two confirmed deaths in Tonga from the disaster, one of which was a British national.

Some of Tonga's small outlying islands have suffered substantial damage, aid agencies say.

Two people have been reported dead, but with communications limited there are fears the true toll could be higher.

The UN reported extensive damage to property on western beaches of Tongatapu.

A group of Tongans have been sweeping the ash off the runway, 1News reported.

It is likely to take at least until Wednesday before the runway is clear.

It could take up to two weeks to restore phone and internet lines.

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