A massive volcanic eruption in Tonga that triggered tsunami waves around the Pacific Ocean caused “significant damage” to the island nation’s capital and suffocated it in dust, but the full extent was not obvious with communications still shut down on Sunday.
The eruption on Saturday was so strong that it was recorded around the world, triggering a tsunami that flooded the Pacific coast from Japan to the United States.
The capital Nuku’alofa suffered “significant” damage, said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, adding that there had been no reports of injuries or deaths but a full assessment was not yet possible with communication lines down.
“The tsunami has had a significant impact on the shoreline on the north side of Nuku’alofa with boats and large boulders washed ashore,” Ardern said after contacting the New Zealand embassy in Tonga.
“Nuku’alofa is covered with a thick film of volcanic dust but otherwise the conditions are calm and stable.”Tonga was in need of water supply, she said: “The ash cloud has caused pollution.”
There has been no word on damage to the outer islands and New Zealand will send an air force reconnaissance aircraft “as soon as atmospheric conditions allow”, the country’s defense force tweeted.
“We are working hard to see how we can help our Pacific neighbors after the volcanic eruption near Tonga.”
Tonga has also accepted Canberra’s offer to send a surveillance flight, the Australian Foreign Office said, adding that it is also immediately prepared to deliver “critical humanitarian supplies”.
The United States was “deeply concerned about the people of Tonga”, said Foreign Minister Antony Blinken and promised support for the island nation.
Deeply concerned about the people of Tonga as they recover from the aftermath of a volcanic eruption and tsunami. The United States is ready to provide support to our Pacific neighbors.
A 1.2-meter wave swept ashore in the Tongan capital with residents reporting that they had fled to higher ground, leaving behind flooded houses, some with structural damage, when small rocks and ash fell from the sky.
“It was massive, the ground shook, our house shook. It came in waves. My younger brother thought bombs exploded nearby,” resident Mere Taufa told Stuff’s news site Saturday.
She said water filled their home minutes later and she saw the wall of a nearby house collapse.
“People are screaming”
“We only knew right away that it was a tsunami. Only water rushed into our home,” Taufa said.
“One could only hear screams everywhere, people shouting for safety, so that everyone would come to higher ground.”
Tonga’s King Tupou VI was reported to have been evacuated from the Royal Palace in Nuku’alofa and taken by police convoy to a villa far from the coast.
Dramatic satellite images showed the long, rumbling eruption of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano spewing smoke and ash into the air, with a roaring roar heard 10,000 kilometers (6,000 miles) away in Alaska.
Bureau data show that the shock wave from the volcanic eruption Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai traveled at over 1000 km / h and was registered as a noticeable jump in atmospheric pressure over Australia. By the time it reached Perth, it had traveled nearly 7,000 kilometers. pic.twitter.com/P6uAdWL1Zj
– Bureau of Meteorology, Australia (@BOM_au) January 16, 2022
The eruption triggered tsunamis across the Pacific Ocean with waves of 1.74 meters (five and a half feet) measured in Chanaral, Chile, more than 10,000 kilometers away, and smaller waves that were seen along the Pacific coast from Alaska to Mexico.
In California, the city of Santa Cruz was hit by floods due to a tsunami generated by the tsunami, videos retweeted by the US National Weather Service showed.
Peru closed 22 ports as a precautionary measure while waves of about 1.2 meters (four feet) struck along the Pacific coast of Japan.
At 0300 GMT on Sunday, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii said the threat from the eruption had passed.
Heard in Alaska
The US Geological Survey recorded Saturday’s eruption as equivalent to an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.8 at zero depth.
The eruption of the volcano lasted for at least eight minutes and sent plumes of gas, ash and smoke several kilometers into the air.
New Zealand researcher Marco Brenna, senior lecturer at Otago University’s School of Geology, described the effects of the eruption as “relatively mild” but said another eruption with a much greater impact could not be ruled out.
The eruption was so severe that it was even heard in Alaska, the UAF Geophysical Institute tweeted.
“Part of the pressure signal in Alaska was within the audible range. The very large signal is not so surprising given the extent of the eruption, but the audible aspect is quite unique,” said David Fee, a researcher at the Alaska Volcano Observatory. .
“He only remembers a couple of other volcanic eruptions that did something like this: Krakatau and Novarupta,” it tweeted. This referred to the 19th century eruption in Indonesia’s Krakatau and Alaska’s Novarupta, the most powerful volcanic eruption of the 20th century.
Fife weather station in Scotland tweeted that it was “just incredible to think of the force that can send a shock wave around the world” after the eruptions gave a jump in its air pressure graph.
Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai, located about 65 kilometers north of Nuku’alofa, has a history of instability.
In recent years, it broke the sea level during an eruption in 2009 while in 2015 it spewed so many large rocks and ash into the air that when they settled, a new island had formed two kilometers long, one kilometer wide and 100 meters high.