A massive volcanic eruption and tsunami hit Tonga and the Pacific. Here’s what we know

Satellite images of the JMA show a volcanic eruption in Tonga on 15 January.

The Undersea volcano near Tonga erupted for the third time in four days, potentially jeopardizing the ability of surveillance flights to assess damage to the Pacific island nation after Saturday’s massive eruption and tsunami.

The Australian Meteorological Agency said Monday there was a “massive eruption” on the Hunga Tonga Hunga Hapai volcano, but no tsunami alert was issued. Experts say Saturday’s eruption was probably the largest explosion on Earth in more than 30 years.

Dramatic footage from space captured the eruption in real time, as huge plumes of ash, gas and steam spread over 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) into the atmosphere and tsunami waves were sent to hit the Pacific.

Footage on social media showed floodwaters fleeing in waves in Nuku’alofa, Tonga’s capital, and the afternoon sky turned black with heavy ash clouds.

Tsunami waves were also reported thousands of miles off the west coast of the United States in Peru, New Zealand and Japan. In Peru, high waves have killed at least two people.

No mass casualties have been reported so far, but aid agencies are concerned about air pollution and access to clean water for residents of the outer islands of Tonga.

As communications closed, Australia and New Zealand sent flights to survey the damage.

Where is Tonga’s Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Hapai volcano?

Tonga is a Polynesian country of more than 170 islands in the South Pacific and is home to about 100,000 people. It is a remote archipelago about 800 kilometers (500 miles) east of Fiji and 2,380 kilometers (1,500 miles) from New Zealand.

The Hungatongahungahapai volcano, located about 30 kilometers (20 miles) southeast of Fonuafou Island in Tonga, lies underwater between two small islands about 2,000 meters (6,500 feet) above sea level, visible over 100 meters (32 feet). Sea level.

Researchers say it has continued to erupt over the past few decades.

The eruption in 2009 sent plumes of steam and ash into the air and created new land on the water, and in January 2015 an eruption created a new island about 2 kilometers wide, effectively merging with the islands of Hangatonga and Hungahapai.

The most recent eruption began in December 2021, with plumes of gas, steam and ash rising about 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) into the air.

The volcano erupted again on January 14 and a massive eruption on January 15 sent shock waves around the world and triggered a tsunami in the Pacific.

Where did the tsunami hit?

The epicenter was reported below the Pacific Ocean floor, however; no tsunami alert was issued. The epicenter was reported below the Pacific Ocean floor, however; no tsunami alert was issued.

Tsunami warnings have been issued for Pacific island nations, including Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu. Footage from the ground in Fiji shows people fleeing to the high ground of the capital Suwa, as large waves hit the coast.

Tsunami warnings and advice were also issued from parts of New Zealand, Japan and Peru to the United States and British Columbia in Canada.

In Japan, waves as high as 2.7 meters (9 feet) were observed in the northeastern prefecture of Iwate, and numerous small tsunamis were reported in numerous other places, according to public broadcaster NHK. By Sunday afternoon, all tsunami alerts in Japan had been lifted.

According to the National Weather Service Office in San Diego, the blast also sent waves to the US West Coast, some as high as 3 and 4 feet high. Tsunami waves were felt in California, Alaska and Hawaii.

What’s going on with the ash cloud?

Huge clouds of volcanic ash covered Tonga over the weekend, covered the afternoon sky, and covered Nukualofa in thick foam of volcanic dust on Saturday.

Save the Children said the drinking water supply could be contaminated by ash and smoke and the immediate concern in Tonga is air and water safety. A cloud of ash was moving westward and was visible over Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia on Sunday.

He arrived in Queensland, Australia, on Monday, according to the state weather service. Dawn sunlight was shattered by volcanic ash from the #Tonga eruption, “the Queensland Bureau of Meteorology said on Twitter.

The Australian reconnaissance flight was prevented from departing Ash in the early morning of January 17 to assess the damage, although the flight took off later that morning. Some flights from Australia, New Zealand and Fiji to Tonga were postponed due to the ash cloud. New Zealand volcanologist Shane Cronin told Radio New Zealand that the eruption was the largest since the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines.

“This is a well-observed explosion from space,” Cronin said, according to Reuters. The eruption indicates that it was the largest since the Pinatubo eruption in 1991, “Cronin said.

What is the rate of destruction?

So far there have been no reports of mass casualties in Tonga and the extent of the damage is unknown as communications, especially on the offshore islands, have not yet been restored.

Tonga “urgently needs help to provide clean water and food to its citizens.” Lord Fakafanua, speaker of the country’s House of Representatives, said in a statement released on social media.

It said “many areas” have been affected by “significant volcanic eruptions” but “the full extent of the damage to life and property is unknown at this time”. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on January 16 that the tsunami had a “significant effect” on Nuku’alofa as boats and large rocks were washed ashore.

“Shops along the coast have been damaged and will require major cleaning,” he said. The main underwater communication cable is also affected, due to the power outage. Z Ceselja, Australia’s Minister for Pacific and International Development, said there had been “significant damage” to Tonga, including roads and homes.

He said there was still “very limited, if any” information from outside islands. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said its teams were on the ground and had enough supplies to feed 1,200 households in the country.

The head of the IFRC’s Pacific delegation, Katie Greenwood, said: “Based on the current information we have, the extent of the devastation could be huge, especially for the outer islands,” according to Reuters.

The New Zealand Defense Force sent Orion aircraft on a surveillance mission in Tonga to assess the damage. Ardern said the country initially provided 340,000 for relief supplies, technical assistance and on-site assistance.

Australia said it was preparing for additional support, including airlift of humanitarian supplies, including water and sanitation, to Tonga as soon as conditions were met.

The Autonomous Islands of China and Taiwan said in separate statements that they were ready to assist at Tonga’s request.

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