logo
Tonga

Tsunami terror

Update 16 January.

The tsunami threat from a powerful Tonga volcano eruption has passed, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said on Sunday, after powerful waves flooded coastlines from Japan to the United States.

“Based on all available data, the tsunami threat from this volcanic eruption has now passed,” the PTWC said at 0300 GMT, adding authorities at “impacted coastal areas should monitor… to determine when it is safe to resume normal activities”.

Parts of the Tongan capital Nuku’alofa suffered “significant” damage in the powerful volcanic eruption but there have been no reports of injury or deaths, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Sunday.

Communications with the Pacific island have been cut since Saturday’s eruption damaged the undersea cable but Ardern said her government had made contact with the New Zealand High Commission in the Tongan capital.

“The tsunami has had a significant impact on the foreshore on the northern side of Nuku’alofa with boats and large boulders washed ashore,” Ardern said.

“Nuku’alofa is covered in a thick film of volcanic dust but otherwise conditions are calm and stable.”

However, there has been no word on damage in Tonga’s outer islands with New Zealand set to send an air force reconnaissance aircraft to fly over the region on Monday if the volcanic ash cloud permits.

volcano tsunami tonga
Powerful undersea volcano eruption in Tonga on Friday Jan 14, 2022. The latest eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano came just a few hours after Friday’s tsunami warning was lifted. Tonga Geological Services/EYEPRESS
EyePress News / EyePress via AFP

Dramatic satellite images showed the long, rumbling eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano spew smoke and ash in the air, with a thunderous roar heard as far as 10,000 kilometres (6,000 miles) away in Alaska.

It triggered a tsunami that flooded Pacific coastlines from Japan to the United States.

Ardern said there was “no ongoing large eruption” and ash had stopped falling, but further volcanic activity could not be ruled out.


Huge Tonga volcanic eruption felt around the world

The massive underwater volcanic eruption in Tonga was so powerful it was recorded around the world and triggered a tsunami that flooded Pacific coastlines from Japan to the United States, scientists said Sunday.

Dramatic satellite images showed the long, rumbling eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano spew smoke and ash in the air, with a thunderous roar heard 10,000 kilometres (6,000 miles) away in Alaska.

The US Geological Survey recorded Saturday’s eruption as equivalent to a 5.8 magnitude earthquake at zero depth.

But the full extent of the damage in Tonga was unclear Sunday with communication lines down.

A 1.2 metre (four-foot) wave swept ashore in the Tongan capital Nuku’alofa with locals reporting they had fled to higher ground, leaving behind flooded houses, some with structural damage, and with small stones and ash falling from the sky.

New Zealand scientist Marco Brenna, a senior lecturer at Otago University’s School of Geology, described the impact of the eruption as “relatively mild” but said another eruption with a much bigger impact could not be ruled out.

Waves of around 1.2 metres hit along Japan’s Pacific coast with the Japan Meteorological Agency warning waves as high as three metres were possible.

tsunami tonga
A massive volcanic eruption triggered a tsunami in Tonga. Picture: Twitter

In New Zealand, more than 2,300 kilometres from Tonga, 120 people were evacuated from northern coastal areas and several boats destroyed when a huge wave crashed into a marina.

Australia’s popular Bondi Beach in Sydney was briefly evacuated as a precaution while in California, coastal streets in Santa Cruz were awash and closed to traffic.

The National Weather Service Alaska reported the Alaska Volcano Observatory had recorded the eruption in Anchorage and Fairbanks “6,000 miles from the volcano.”

The Fife weather station in Scotland tweeted it was “just incredible to think of the power that can send a shockwave around the world” after the eruptions produced a jump in its air pressure graph.

Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai, which lies about 65 kilometres north of Nuku’alofa, has a history of volatility.

In recent years, it breached sea level during a 2009 eruption while in 2015 it spewed so many large rocks and ash into the air that when they settled a new island had formed two kilometres long by one kilometre wide and 100 metres high.

Keep away

Tsunami warnings were issued for American Samoa, New Zealand, Fiji, Vanuatu, Chile and Australia — where authorities said a swathe of coastline, including Sydney, could be hit by tsunami waves.

People in surrounding New South Wales state were “advised to get out of the water and move away from the immediate water’s edge”.

A tsunami advisory was issued for the entire US West Coast — from the bottom of California to the tip of Alaska’s Aleutian islands — while tsunami waves triggered “minor flooding” in Hawaii according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

tonga tsunami pacific
This satellite image released by Tonga Meteorological Services shows an undersea volcano eruption in Tonga on Saturday Jan 15, 2022. The latest eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano came just a few hours after Friday’s tsunami warning was lifted. Picture: Tonga Meteorological Services/EYEPRESS / EyePress News / EyePress via AFP

“A Tsunami is occurring. Remember: the first wave may not be that largest. Move away from the shore and head to high ground,” the US National Tsunami Warning Center wrote.

Footage shared on social media appeared to show a wave of about a foot washing into a coastal inlet in the state of Oregon.

Canada issued a tsunami advisory for British Columbia province and urged people to stay away from beaches and marinas.

Fijian officials warned residents to cover water collection tanks in case of acidic rain fall.

Victorina Kioa of the Tonga Public Service Commission said Friday that people should “keep away from areas of warning which are low-lying coastal areas, reefs and beaches”.

And the head of Tonga Geological Services, Taaniela Kula, urged people to stay indoors, wear a mask if they were outside and cover rainwater reservoirs and rainwater harvesting systems.

15 January

Frightened Tongans fled to higher ground Saturday after a massive volcanic eruption — heard in neighbouring countries — triggered tsunami warnings across the South Pacific.

“A 1.2 metre tsunami wave has been observed at Nuku’alofa,” Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology tweeted.

The latest eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano came just a few hours after a separate Friday tsunami warning was lifted due to the eruption.

Mere Taufa said she was in her house getting ready for dinner when the volcano erupted.

“It was massive, the ground shook, our house was shaking. It came in waves. My younger brother thought bombs were exploding nearby,” Taufa told the Stuff news website.

She said water filled their home minutes later and she saw the wall of a neighbouring house collapse.

“We just knew straight away it was a tsunami. Just water gushing into our home.

“You could just hear screams everywhere, people screaming for safety, for everyone to get to higher ground.”

Tonga’s King Tupou VI was reported to have been evacuated from the Royal Palace in Nuku’alofa and taken by a police convoy to a villa well away from the coastline.

The initial eruption lasted at least eight minutes and sent plumes of gas, ash and smoke several kilometres into the air.

Residents in coastal areas were urged to head for higher ground.

The eruption was so intense it was heard as “loud thunder sounds” in Fiji more than 800 kilometres (500 miles) away, officials in Suva said.

Fijian officials warned residents to cover water collection tanks in case of acidic rain fall.

MORE STORIES:
Tonga’s drug problem continues
Tonga overtakes Australia in rugby league rankings

Victorina Kioa of the Tonga Public Service Commission said Friday that people should “keep away from areas of warning which are low-lying coastal areas, reefs and beaches”.

The head of Tonga Geological Services Taaniela Kula urged people to stay indoors, wear a mask if they were outside and cover rainwater reservoirs and rainwater harvesting systems.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre issued a “tsunami advisory” for American Samoa, saying there was a threat of “sea level fluctuations and strong ocean currents that could be a hazard along beaches”.

Similar warnings were issued by authorities in New Zealand, Fiji, Vanuatu and Australia — where authorities said a swathe of coastline including Sydney could be hit by tsunami waves.

People in surrounding New South Wales state were “advised to get out of the water and move away from the immediate water’s edge”.

The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano sits on an uninhabited island about 65 kilometres (40 miles) north of the Tongan capital Nuku’alofa.

© Agence France-Presse

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

You may also like

Send this to a friend