Official damage assessments were not yet available, she said, but the New Zealand high commission in Nuku'alofa had told her the tsunami has had a significant affect on the foreshore on the northern side of Nuku'alofa, with boats and large boulders washed ashore.
“Shops along the coast have been damaged and a significant cleanup will be needed,” she said.
Australia said it will send a P8 surveillance aircraft to Tonga on Monday to assess damage to critical infrastructure such as roads, ports and power lines, which will determine the next phase of the response effort.
The Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai volcano has erupted regularly over the past few decades but Saturday's eruption was so loud that residents in parts of faraway Fiji and New Zealand said they heard it.
“My entire house was shaking,” said Sanya Ruggiero, a consulting communications adviser based in Suva, the capital of Fiji, some 750km from Tonga.
“My doors, windows were all rattling like hell. And mine was not even as bad as others. Hundreds of people ran out of their homes,” said Ruggiero, who consults for several agencies including the UN.