World"Significant" damage reported in Tonga after eruption of underwater...

“Significant” damage reported in Tonga after eruption of underwater volcano that caused tsunami in the Pacific

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The capital of Tonga suffered “significant” damage from the tsunami caused by a powerful underwater volcanic eruption in the Pacific, which generated alarm from Japan to Chile, although the risk of further damage has passed. Through images taken from space, it was possible to observe the moment when the last eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano sent a mushroom of smoke and ash into the air and a shock wave through the surrounding sea.

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The eruption was felt by everyone. In Alaska, 10,000 kilometers away, a powerful roar was heard, and in Scotland, at the antipodes of the volcano, the Fife weather station recorded a jump in air pressure due to this phenomenon.

The volcano caused a wave of 1.2 meters in the capital of the Tonga islands, Nuku’alofa, whose inhabitants took refuge in elevated areas, leaving behind flooded houses with structural damage.

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“The tsunami has had a significant impact on the northern Nuku’alofa coastline, with boats and large stones thrown ashore”New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, adding that no deaths had been reported so far.

“Nuku’alofa is covered in a thick layer of volcanic ash, but conditions are calm and stable,” added Ardern, who will send a reconnaissance plane to the archipelago.

His government managed to contact his embassy in the Tongan capital, where communications are down, complicating assessment of tsunami damage.

“It was a massive explosion”resident Mere Taufa, who was at home preparing dinner, explained to the news site Stuff. “The ground shook, the whole house was shaken. It came in waves,” he said.

“We knew right away that it was a tsunami, with the water that came into the house,” he added.

The eruption lasted eight minutes, and was so strong that it was heard “like distant thunder” in the Fiji Islands, more than 800 km away, officials in Suva, the capital, said.

In Tonga, the authorities asked the population to stay away from the beaches, reefs and flat coasts and wear a mask outside.

The threat “has passed”

The powerful eruption caused a cascade of alerts throughout the Pacific Ocean: New Zealand, Fiji, Vanuatu, Australia, the United States, Japan, Ecuador, Chile, among others, although in most places no major mishaps occurred.

People look at a damaged boat at a marina in Tutukaka, New Zealand, on Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022. (Tanya White/Northern Advcate/NZME via AP)

At 0300 GMT, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center sent out a notification to note that “based on available data, the tsunami threat from this volcanic eruption has passed.”

The phenomenon caused a wave of 1.2 meters in the remote Japanese island of Amami and a smaller tsunami in other parts of the coast. At the other end of the Pacific, in Chile, the waves reached between 30 centimeters and one meter.

All the beaches in the country, where thousands of Chileans enjoyed the southern summer, were evacuated while bathers received strident alerts on their phones.

In Ecuador “significant sea level disturbances” of up to half a meter were recorded and Peru also reported slight flooding in some coastal towns and “anomalous waves” that led to the closure of 22 ports as a precaution.

In Australia, the authorities said that a part of the coast, including Sydney, could be hit by the waves. Residents of the surrounding New South Wales state were also advised to “get out of the water and away from the shore”.

The US National Weather Service also issued tsunami warnings for the West Coast, from California to Alaska, predicting waves of up to 60 centimeters, strong currents and coastal flooding. Canada also put the province of British Columbia on alert.

The head of US diplomacy, Antony Blinken, was concerned about the consequences of the double catastrophe in Tonga and assured that his country “is prepared to provide support to our neighbors in the Pacific”.

The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano was located under the sea about 65 kilometers north of the Tongan capital. However, its recent eruptions brought it to the surface and have formed a small uninhabited island.

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