New footage shows cars crawling inland as rocks and ash rained down from the sky.
Stories of survival are being shared over satellite phone and social media.
“It’s a very, very difficult time for the people of Tonga. The feedback on the ground that I got today is, again, many people displaced,” Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Zed Seselja, said.
Some 4000 kilometres away in a warehouse in NSW, Matraville families are packing supplies for their loved ones in Tonga.
There are more 30,000 Tongans living in Australia who are coming together to help their home country.
In a statement, a United Nations coordination specialist in Tonga said the “people are going to need sustained support responding to a disaster of this scale”.
In the seven days since the natural disaster, foreign aid has been trickling in, but it has been slowed down because of strict COVID-safe border controls in place to prevent the virus from entering Tonga, which it is kept out so far.
Three humanitarian flights have touched down in Tonga after one Australian plane was forced to return to base because there was a COVID-19 case on board.
“We respect absolutely the desire of the Tongan Government not to add a COVID crisis to a humanitarian crisis,” Mr Seselja said.
New Zealand, Japan, the US and the UK have also been providing aid.
At Tonga’s International Airport, pallets of urgent supplies have arrived.
But they can’t be used until 72 hours have passed since their disinfection, due to COVID-19 measures.
In addition to the aid, more messages of support are being sent to Tonga from around the world.
Australian rugby star Taniela Tupou, whose nickname is “Tongan Thor”, said the team is “sending our love” and urged the Pacific nation to “stay strong”, while Auckland-based rugby team Moana Pasifika united in song and prayers following the disaster.