New Zealand relatives of Tongans nervously wait for news from loved ones

It's just over 24 hours on from the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai underwater volcano and the wait continues for many trying to get information out of the Pacific nation.

Communications infrastructure has been damaged by the disaster, so news from the island has been severely limited for New Zealand relatives of Tongans.

It's an awful, anxious wait for news from Tonga. Faila Kivalu has a son in the capital, and a sister that she is gravely worried about.

"It's really impacted our life," Taniela Kivalu told Newshub. "We really want to hear from them."

Kivalu's sister Litani is living on the group of islands closest to the volcano - Ha'apai. 

These settlements are linked by a shallow causeway - you can see just how low-lying the land is. 

"With the strong wind, the sea just comes up to the island and some of the houses, but I'm sure with a tsunami, I'm sure they will wipe all the houses," Kivalu said. 

For families in Auckland, they saw videos of the tsunami hitting Tongatapu - and then nothing. 

"Imagine being over here and your parents are back there and all of a sudden, communication and everything is gone," the president of the Tongan Assemblies of God in NZ, Rev Lawrence Lenati, told Newshub.

"You hear there's no power, no phone lines, so the nation is just in darkness."

There are 82,000 Tongans in New Zealand, many of them awaiting news from loved ones. 

Community leader Melino Maka's phone has been flooded with Tongan New Zealanders asking for news from the islands - he has none. 

"The way the communication has been for over 18 hours, it's a long time to wait and cross your fingers and hope for the best," Maka told Newshub. 

He's most concerned about low-lying land along with the Ha'apai Islands as well as the poorer low-lying areas near the capital Nuku'alofa.

"I'm deeply worried about them and hope that the scale of the damage is not as severe," Maka said. 

Thoughts have turned to the most likely immediate needs - food, and damage caused by ash, both to lungs and the water supply.

The message from the New Zealand Government to those wanting desperately to get in touch and to help out - sit tight. 

"My message has been just to be patient and remain calm. It's just too early," Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio said.

But, after 24 hours with little word, it's an awfully long time to wait.

Watch the full story above.