#AceNewsReport – Feb.01: On January 15, a colossal underwater volcano in the South Pacific kingdom of Tonga exploded into a violent fury. The blast, equivalent to several megatons of TNT, left thousands of Tongans without water, internet and telecommunications access. It also triggered tsunami advisories across the Pacific Ocean from Australia to Japan and Alaska to Peru.
#AceDailyNews says according to a magazine report the country declared a 90-day environmental emergency after 264,000 gallons of crude oil contaminated a biodiverse swath of its coastal ecosystems By Elizabeth Gamillo
Unlike neighboring countries Chile and Ecuador, Peru did not close its beaches or issue warnings during the increased wave activity, and two women drown in abnormally large waves in the northern Lambayeque region of the country, report the New York Times‘ Natasha Frost, Mitra Taj and Eric Nagourney.
Meanwhile, an oil tanker was hit by the waves while offloading cargo at La Pampilla Refinery, located north of Lima and operated by the energy company Repsol. The boat spilled 264,000 gallons of crude oil along the country’s coastline, reports Carlos Mandujano for the Agence France Presse. Initial reports connect the spill to waves caused by the eruption some 6,000 miles away, but an investigation into Repsol’s role in the accident remains ongoing, reports theAtlantic’s Alan Taylor.
On January 20, Peruvian president Pedro Castillo declared an environmental emergency for affected areas, home to some of the country’s most biodiverse ecosystems, Marco Aquino reports for Reuters.
#BREAKING: An oil spill caused by the waves from an undersea volcano eruption in Tonga is devastating marine life along Peru’s Pacific Coast including guano birds, seagulls, terns, sea lions, and dolphins. https://t.co/xb9ZAJlIxf— Oceana Press (@PressOceana) January 19, 2022
Repsol has denied responsibility for the spill and blamed the Peruvian Navy for not issuing tsunami warnings after the volcanic eruption, per Reuters.
Initially, Repsol reported that only seven gallons of oil were spilled, reports Mitra Taj for the New York Times. However, the environmental ministry estimated more than 6,000 barrels of oil had spilled and accused the company of failing to notify authorities in time about the true magnitude of the spill. President Castillo stated that the government is readying criminal, civil, and administrative sanctions, per the New York Times.
The oil slick in the ocean extended an area of over 320 football fields, causing carcasses of birds, fish, seals and other marine fauna to wash ashore. After currents moved the oil about 25 miles from the refinery, a total of 21 beaches were left coated in a dark, sludgy film, and health authorities declared the areas a severe health risk, per AFP. The spill has also left hundreds of fishers without work and threatens two protected marine reserves that provide refuge for all kinds of sea life, including sea otters, red-legged cormorants and endangered Humboldt penguins, per the New York Times.Cleanup crews and volunteers have been working non-stop to clean the spill and save affected wildlife. AP Photo/ Martin Mejia
More than 40 birds were brought into Parque de Las Leyendas, a nearby zoo, after being rescued from contaminated beaches. Veterinarians on staff are racing to save the birds by bathing them with detergents to remove the sticky oil, per AFP. The animals were also given anti-bacterial drugs, antifungals, and vitamins to aid in their recovery.
Cleanup crews and volunteers have been working non-stop to clean the spill and save affected wildlife, per the Atlantic. Hundreds of cleanup workers have been brought in by Repsol, and the company has said they expect to have the cleanup finished by the end of February, the New York Times reports.
“The oil is going to be in the sea for months,” Juan Rivero, a marine biologist at Oceana Peru, tells the New York Times. “It’s going to affect our fauna. It’s going to affect our food, it’s going to affect our health, it’s going to affect our beaches.”
#AceNewsReport – Jan.21: This is by far the highest volcanic plume we’ve ever measured with CALIPSO,” said Jason Tackett, a researcher at NASA’s Langley Research Center. CALIPSO was launched in 2006 by NASA and France’s National Centre for Space Studies (CNES).
#AceDailyNews NASA Report: A powerful volcanic eruption has obliterated a small, uninhabited South Pacific island known as Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha‘apai. Damage assessments are still ongoing, but preliminary reports indicate that some communities in the island nation of Tonga have been severely damaged by volcanic ash and significant tsunami waves.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated on January 19, 2022, to add more context and quotes from scientists studying the volcano.
The volcano had sporadically erupted multiple times since 2009. The most recent activity began in late December 2021 as a series of Surtseyan eruptions built up and reshaped the island, while sending bursts of tephra and volcanic gases spewing from the vent. Relatively powerful blasts shook Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha‘apai on January 13, but it was an even more intense series of explosions early on January 15 that generated atmospheric shock waves, sonic booms, and tsunami waves that traveled the world.
Several Earth-observing satellites collected data during and after the eruption. Scientists affiliated with NASA’s Disasters program are now gathering imagery and data, and they are sharing it with colleagues around the world, including disaster response agencies.
“The umbrella cloud was about 500 kilometers (300 miles) in diameter at its maximum extent,” said Michigan Tech volcanologist Simon Carn. “That is comparable to Pinatubo and one of the largest of the satellite era. However, the involvement of water in the Tonga eruption may have increased the explosivity compared to a purely magmatic eruption like Pinatubo.”NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite 17 (GOES-17) captured the images for the animation above. The natural-color views from the satellite’s Advanced Baseline Imager were acquired between 5 and 8 p.m. local time (04:00 to 07:00 Universal Time) as the volcanic plume expanded upward and outward over the South Pacific. (NASA builds and launches the GOES series of satellites for NOAA.)
The second image, based on data collected on January 16 by the Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO) mission, shows material from the eruption rising to an altitude of 31 kilometers (19 miles). Other CALIPSO data collected on January 15 indicates that a small amount of ash and gas may have reached as high as 39.7 kilometers (24.7 miles).
The eruption was powerful enough to inject volcanic material into the stratosphere, which generally begins above 15 kilometers (9 miles) in this part of the world. Scientists watch closely when volcanic materials reach this relatively dry layer of the atmosphere because particles linger much longer and travel much farther than if they remain in the lower, wetter troposphere. If enough volcanic material reaches the stratosphere, it can start to exert a cooling influence on global temperatures.
Despite the extreme height of the January 15 plume, scientists do not expect it to have much impact on climate. Satellite observations indicate the eruption injected about 0.4 teragrams of sulfur dioxide into the upper atmosphere, but the threshold for climate impacts is about 5 teragrams. “It is not unlike a dozen other eruptions that have occurred in the past 20 years in terms of likely impacts on climate,” explained Brian Toon, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Colorado. “It is possible the impacts will be observable in very closely studied data (when the effects of La Niña and El Niño are removed), but the impacts will be too small to be felt by the average person.”
Why this eruption was so violent is not clear yet. “With something this explosive, it is typically a consequence of a large volume of seawater coming into contact with a large reservoir of magma in a confined geologic setting,” explained Daniel Slayback, a NASA scientist who visited Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha‘apai in 2019 to study how erosion was affecting the youngest parts of the island. Understanding erosion processes around volcanic features on Earth provides insights into how related processes may have played out in other parts of the solar system, including Mars.
Signs of the island’s recent demise were easy for satellites to spot in the seas. The trio of natural-color images above shows how sediment, ash, pumice, and possibly continuing emissions from the volcano discolored the water in the days after the event. The images were acquired by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite.
The geologic record suggests Hunga Tonga may have produced large explosive eruptions like this in the past. “I just didn’t expect to see one happen quite so soon,” said Slayback. “It was a beautiful little island with a thriving ecosystem of grasses, tropical birds, and other wildlife.”
#AceNewsReport – Jan.19: At least three people have been killed and more injured after a 50ft tsunami triggered by an underwater volcano exploding slammed into Tonga, the government has said in its first update since the ‘unprecedented disaster’.
#AceDailyNews says according to MailOnline News Report: Tonga Eruption: 50ft tsunami destroyed entire village as death toll rises : An entire village on Mango Island has been swept away by the tsunami, the government said today, with just two buildings left standing on Fonoifua Island. Namuka Island also has ‘extensive damage’.
The dead include a 65-year-old woman on Mango Island, a 49-year-old man on Nomuka Island, and 50-year-old Briton Angela Glover who was found dead on Tongatapu Island on Monday.
Rescue operations including evacuations of Mango, Fonoifua and Atata islands are underway, with ‘a number of’ injuries also reported – though government officials could not say how many.
Communications from Tonga, a remote set of Pacific islands with a population of 105,000, have been sparse since disaster struck late Saturday when the Hunga-Tonga volcano dramatically exploded – sparking a tsunami, covering nearby islands in ash, and severing an undersea internet cable connecting the country with the outside world.
While early reports from the islands were encouraging, as the days have gone on the picture has darkened. Aid workers on the main island of Tongatapu say the death toll there is likely to be limited, but fears are growing for hundreds of people who live on smaller outlying islands and have not been heard from since the eruption.
Reconnaissance planes from the Australian and New Zealand air forces circled some of the islands on Monday, giving a glimpse of the conditions being faced by survivors – moon-like landscapes covered in thick ash, buildings flattened, and people living under tarpaulins.
Aid efforts are being hampered by damage to the islands’ main port and airport, but also by the country’s strict zero-Covid policy which could see aid shipments and workers quarantined to stop a ‘tsunami of Covid’.
Tonga has recorded just one official case in a traveller from New Zealand who tested positive in isolation in October last year, and is determined to keep it that way. Ministers have already warned their counterparts in New Zealand and Australia, which are coordinating aid efforts, that virus protocols will be applied to rescuers.
Tonga Volcano: Why was it so big, and are there others we need to watch out for? ABC News Report:
When the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupted in Tonga on Saturday, it sent a huge plume 30 kilometres into the sky and a literal shockwave around the world.
Every week there are around 20 volcanoes “showing some signs of unrest” across the globe, but most are fairly mild, says Scott Bryan, a volcano researcher at the Queensland University of Technology.
So what made this volcano so explosive, was the eruption predicted, will it erupt again soon, and are there other volcanoes we should be watching out for?
Why was it so explosive?
The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano is what is known as a subduction volcano.
Subduction zone volcanoes occur along tectonic plate boundaries where one plate is being forced down under another.
Subduction volcanoes tend to have dualpersonalities, according to Professor Bryan.
On the one hand, they have slow, passive eruptions that build the classic conical shape of volcanoes like Mt Fuji, and on the other they’re violently explosive, as we’ve seen in Tonga.
There are two factors that can lead to a highly explosive eruption, and although it’s still too early to say definitively, it appears both factors may have been at play on Saturday.
The first is a high concentration of pressurised water vapour and gases in the magma.
When that magma hits the surface from deep underground, there’s a sudden release of pressure “like opening a champagne bottle”, which causes the gases to explosively expand, blasting apart the magma or lava in the process.
In the case of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai, researchers had previously looked at the chemical composition of the volcano’s lava sediment from an eruption in 2009.
They found the lava had ingredients for a powerful explosion, according to Heather Handley, a volcanologist from Monash University who was involved with that research.
“We could see from the chemistry of the rocks that the magma of that eruption was moving to the surface quickly and keeping hold of its gas as well,” Dr Handley said.
The second factor that made the Tongan volcano so explosive was that it was a sub-surface volcano — its lava vent was under the ocean.
When magma hits water, it causes an explosive interaction between the two as the water rapidly flashes to steam, Professor Bryan said.
“It’s the external addition of the water and the heat of the magma coming into contact with it,” he said.
“That flashes steam and that’s driven the explosion.”
The volcano’s vent was above water before disappearing below sea level just a few days (or hours) prior to Saturday’s catastrophic eruption, according to Dr Handley.
“The satellite images, if you compare from the 6th of January to two hours before the eruption, somewhere in that time frame the middle cone had gone,” she said.
A smaller eruption may have blown apart the cone, allowing the incursion of seawater into the vent, which then catalysed the larger eruption.
But Professor Bryan suspects an underwater slip or collapse may have magnified the eruption and caused the tsunami that went with it.
“You need to displace ocean water to make tsunamis,” he said.
“It’s more than just the eruption. Something else has happened underwater that’s triggered this explosion.”
Was the eruption predicted?
The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano was on a roughly 1,000-year eruption cycle, according to high-temperature geochemist Oliver Nebel of Monash University.
But that doesn’t mean we could have pinpointed with any real accuracy when it was going to erupt.
“We know … it’s due [to erupt], but that could mean yesterday or it could be in 100 years,” Dr Nebel said.
But there were some signs Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai was becoming more active, he said.
“The volcano had erupted in recent days in the lead-up to the massive eruption.”
Dr Handley said the volcano entered a phase of increased activity sometime around December 19-20.
“In the past few weeks, you’ve been seeing what we call phreatomagmatic eruptions, where water and magma are coming into contact,” she said.
“You get these dark feathered plumes that come out.”
According to the database of the Global Volcanism Program, gas steam and ash plumes had risen at least 12.2 kilometres into the air by late December, but activity had “significantly decreased” by early January.
The difficulty in evacuating people when volcanoes enter more active phases is that often they may settle down again without a catastrophic eruption, Dr Nebel said.
Evacuating people any time a volcano showed signs of activity would not only be costly, but it would lead to an erosion of public trust in scientists, he added.
Will it erupt again soon?
When a volcano like this erupts, it often happens as a series of eruptions, rather than a one-off.
Records from the Global Volcanism Program show that the last period of activity at Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai, which began in December 2014, lasted just over a year.
During that period a new island was formed, about 120 metres high and about 2 kilometres long.
Dr Nebel said he suspected there would likely be more eruptions in the near future.
“I think it will likely erupt again in the coming days, weeks, months,” he said.
“It’s really hard, slash impossible, to predict whether it will be the same severity.”
A huge eruption like this one may mean that any following eruptions will be less intense; however, again, there are no guarantees.
The problem is that the magma chamber can be tens of kilometres deep, and there’s no way of knowing how much more magma is still in the chamber.
“The only thing we can say is that it has erupted now, so the likelihood of there being much more underneath is low, but we have seen [multiple large eruptions] before in the past,” Dr Nebel said.
Similarly, Dr Handley said it was “impossible to tell” at this point whether we had seen the biggest eruption, or if there were more to come.
Professor Bryan said if there was an underwater landslide that precipitated the eruption, that may actually be good news in terms of future eruptions.
“Hopefully if there was a landslide or whatever happened on Saturday, it’s stabilised the slopes to some extent,” he said.
“[In that case] we may have some explosions or tall columns, but we’re not going to get the tsunamis.”
Though the fallout and potential death toll is still unknown, Professor Bryan said the earlier eruptions at least gave the people of Tonga some forewarning of what may have been coming.
He also said the fact it happened in daylight was a small positive.
“By the sounds of it, most people saw the early signs. Obviously there was a sonic boom and they’d seen the columns from the weeks before.
“If this happened like three hours later in the middle of the night [when] people are asleep, it could have been a lot worse.”
Are there other volcanoes like this to watch out for?
Volcanoes like Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai are part of the Pacific Ring of Fire — a roughly 40,000km line around the Pacific Ocean tracing the edge of tectonic plates, where a large share of the world’s volcanoes are found.
However, these have what is referred to as an “independent magmatic plumbing system”, Dr Nebel said.
What that means is that their magma chambers and any conduits and vents are in no way connected to other volcanoes, and the eruption of one doesn’t precipitate the eruption of any others.
Across the world there are more than 1,300 active volcanoes, but active doesn’t mean erupting now, according to Dr Handley.
“To be active, we say they erupted in the last 10,000 years,” she said.
A number of these are in Australia’s Pacific neighbours, including Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tonga.
As we’ve seen, predicting which volcanoes may be an imminent threat to life can prove extremely difficult, but volcano experts say more monitoring and tsunami early warning systems can help.
“All of these volcanoes need monitoring, because our ability to predict these eruptions sometimes is in the order of hours,” Dr Nebel said.
Satellite images reveal how Kanokupolu, a village on the hard-hit western side of Tonga’s main island of Tongatapu, has been almost wiped out as ash turns the landscape grey
Satellite images reveal how the village of Kanokupolu, on the main island of Tongatapu, was completely washed away in a tsunami which struck after a volcanic eruption late Saturday
Satellite images reveal damage caused by the eruption and tsunami at Tonga’s main port in the capital Nuku’alofa, which is now blanketed in ash with many buildings damaged or destroyed
Satellite images of Niutoua, a village on Tonga’s main island of Tongatapu, show how it has been completely destroyed with all buildings washed away during a tsunami triggered by the eruption
Satellite images taken before and after the eruption reveal how a village on one of Tonga’s islands has been badly damaged, with the surrounding landscape blanketed in ash
‘Tsunami of Covid’ fears hamper Tonga rescue efforts
Rescue efforts for disaster-stricken Tonga are being hampered because of the Pacific islands’ strict zero-Covid policy.
The country has confirmed just one case so far – a traveller who was in isolation at the time – and despite 60 per cent of people being fully vaccinated, is determined to stop any more from arriving.
Tonga has not spelled out the reasons for its policy, though rates of obesity on the islands are among the highest in the world – almost 60 per cent for men and 45 per cent for women – with obesity being a major comorbidity for Covid.
A study by the World Obesity Federation published in March last year found that Covid death rates are ten times higher in countries where more than half of adults are overweight or obese, such as the UK, US, and Italy.
Researchers even suggested that obese people be given priority for vaccination, along with elderly or clinically vulnerable people.
Curtis Tu’ihalangingie, head of Tonga’s mission in Australia, said Monday that any aid sent to the islands could have to undergo quarantine due to the risk of it being contaminated by Covid – despite the risk of transmission from packaging being very low.
Humanitarian workers sent to the islands will also be expected to undergo 21-day mandatory quarantine on arrival, the government has warned New Zealand and Australia which are helping rescue efforts.
Quarantine may be waived for emergency aid workers.
It comes despite the government warning today that water supplies on all of Tonga’s islands are badly contaminated with ash from the volcano.
Mr Tuihalangingie told Australia’s national broadcaster ABC that keeping the country virus-free remains a priority, warning of a second ‘tsunami of Covid’.
Tsunami waves reaching up to 50ft hit the Ha’apia island group and the west coast of Tonga’s main island, Tongatapu, the prime minister’s office said.
On the western coast of the main island, 56 houses were completely or seriously damaged and residents moved to evacuation centres.
Mango is about 43 miles from the Hunga Tonga volcano, which sent tsunami waves across the Pacific Ocean when it erupted with a blast heard 1,430 miles away in New Zealand.
A search and rescue operation began on Sunday for Atata island, which has a population of about 100 people.
‘Challenges to sea and air transportation remain due to damage sustained by the wharves and the ash that is covering the runways,’ it said. Some limited communications had been made with satellite phones, but other areas remain cut off.
The Tongan navy had deployed with health teams and water, food and tents to the Ha’apai islands, with more aid sent on Tuesday due to the severity of the damage observed on Mango, Fonoifua and Namuka islands, it said.
Australia’s Minister for the Pacific Zed Seselja said Tongan officials were hoping to evacuate people from the isolated, low-lying Ha’apai islands group and other outer islands where conditions were ‘very tough, we understand, with many houses being destroyed in the tsunami.’
The United Nations had earlier reported a distress signal was detected in Ha’apai, where Mango is located. The Tongan navy reported the area was hit by waves estimated to be 5-10 metres (15-30 feet) high, said the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Atata and Mango are between between 30 and 40 miles from the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano, which exploded on Saturday evening in a blast that was heard 1,400 miles away in New Zealand, threw a plume of ash into the atmosphere, and sent tsunami waves rippling across the Pacific.
Atata has a population of about 100 people and Mango around 50 people. ‘It is very alarming to see the wave possibly went through Atata from one end to the other,’ said Tu’ihalangingie.
The NZDF images, which were posted unofficially on a Facebook site and confirmed by Tu’ihalangingie, also showed tarpaulins being used as shelter on Mango island.
A thick layer of ash blankets the islands, the New Zealand High Commission said, adding it was working to establish communications with smaller islands ‘as a matter of priority’.
Satellite images show a district of the Tongan capital Nuku’alofa before and after the eruption, with the buildings and trees turning grey after being blanketed in volcanic ash
Satellite images taken of the peak of the Hunga-Tonga volcano show how it was all-but destroyed in the explosive eruption late on Saturday, with only one piece left visible above the ocean
Nomuka Island, Tonga, is seen before and after the eruption which caused widespread damage to villages and blanketed the island in ash, turning it a dark grey colour
The peak of the Hunga-Tonga volcano is seen before and after the eruption, which destroyed most of the cone
The archipelago’s main airport, Fua’amotu International Airport, was not damaged in Saturday’s eruption and tsunami but heavy ashfall is preventing full operations, hampering international relief efforts.
The U.N. humanitarian office said Tongan officials had said that clearing the runway would take days as it was being done manually, by Wednesday at the earliest.
People on the western coast of the main island of Tongatapu had been evacuated because of ‘significant damage’, OCHA added in an update, while government ministers had broadcast warnings on radio against price gouging amid worries of supply shortages.
The Tongan government is expected to formally request aid from countries including Australia and New Zealand tomorrow. Both antipodean nations have C-130 military aircraft on standby, packed with emergency supplies.
‘The priority now will to be get supplies to Tonga and the biggest constraint on that at the moment … is the airport. There is still a significant amount of ash,’ Seselja said.
Tonga is a kingdom of 176 islands, of which 36 are inhabited, with a population of 104,494 people.
The archipelago has remained largely cut off from the world since the eruption which cut its main undersea communications cable.
Subcom, a U.S. based private company contracted to repair various subsea cables in the Asia-Pacific, said it was working with Tonga Cable Ltd to repair the cable that runs from Tonga to Fiji.
Samiuela Fonua, the chair of Tonga Cable, said there were two cuts in the undersea cable that would not be fixed until volcanic activity ceased, allowing repair crews access.
‘The condition of the site is still pretty messy at the moment,’ Fonua told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
The island of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai, which sits on the seismically active Pacific Ring of Fire, all but disappeared following the blast, according to satellite images taken about 12 hours later, making it difficult for volcanologists to monitor activity.
#AceNewsReport – Jan.17: An underwater volcano that erupted in Tonga was a ‘massive explosion’ that only happens ‘roughly every thousand years’ and was so large it was visible from space.
#AceDailyNews Media News Report: The explosion triggered a 7.4 magnitude #earthquake and ent tsunami waves crashing into the coast of the Pacific island, and left it covered in ash and cut off from aid: In the US, waves of up to 4.1 feet were recorded in Port San Luis on Saturday, and tsunami-effect waves were recorded along the coast in California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and AlaskaBy Chris Matthews
Satellite images showed the spectacular eruption from space and despite the dire warnings, spectators flocked to the beaches to view the surging tsunami waves, while surfers threw caution to the wind to catch the powerful waves generated by the surge.
Tsunami-hit Tonga remained largely uncontactable on Sunday with telephone and internet links severed, leaving relatives in faraway New Zealand praying for their families on the Pacific islands as casualty reports had yet to come through.
Professor Shane Cronin, from the University of Auckland, is an expert in Tonga eruptions. ‘This is one of the massive explosions the volcano is capable of producing roughly every thousand years,’ he wrote in The Conversation.
Prof Cronin added: ‘We could be in for several weeks or even years of major volcanic unrest from the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano.’
Two women drowned in northern Peru when two metre waves hit a truck, dragging it into the sea at Naylamp beach, Lambayeque, in the north of the country.
The driver escaped but his wife and another women drowned in the swell. Although Peru did not issue a tsunami warning, its navy are monitoring ‘abnormal waves’ off its coast.
The massive ash cloud covering the tiny island nation of Tonga is preventing surveillance flights from New Zealand to assess the extent of damage.
One complicating factor to any international aid effort is that Tonga has so far managed to avoid any outbreaks of Covid-19.
The immediate concern in Tonga is for air and water safety due to ash and smoke. The government has asked the public to wear masks and use bottled water for now.
Tsunami advisories were issued for Hawaii, Alaska and the U.S. Pacific coast. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese citizens were also advised to evacuate as waves of more than a metre hit coastal areas.
The U.S. Geological Survey estimated the eruption caused the equivalent of magnitude 5.8 earthquake. Scientists said tsunamis generated by volcanoes rather than earthquakes are relatively rare.
The powerful waves registered in Japan, New Zealand and Australia, with a thunderous roar heard 6,000 miles away in Alaska.
The eruption has reportedly created a new island in Tonga, the second time such an event has happened in Tonga in ten years.
Left: A satellite image shows the underwater volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai with a plume of smoke rising from it, days before the eruption. Right: The volcano two hours before its eruption in Tonga.
The eruption cut the internet to Tonga, leaving friends and family members around the world on Sunday still anxiously trying to get in touch to figure out if there were any injuries and the extent of the damage. Even government websites and other official sources remained without any updates.
Satellite images showed a huge eruption, with a plume of ash, steam and gas rising above the sea. A sonic boom could be heard as far away as Alaska.
Can volcanoes create new isalands?
Volcanic islands are created by eruptions underwater, usually at the boundaries of two tectonic plates, which are pieces of the earth’s crust.
When the plates ease apart, lava spews out in a volcanic eruption.
When the lava cools, layers of erupted material form the basis of new land mass.
They layers build their way up from the sea bed to creat new islands.
The Tonga Meteorological Services said a tsunami warning was declared for all of the archipelago, and data from the Pacific tsunami center said waves of 2.7 feet were detected.
Rachel Afeaki-Taumoepeau, who chairs the New Zealand Tonga Business Council, said she hoped the relatively low level of the tsunami waves would have allowed most people to get to safety, although she worried about those living on islands closest to the volcano.
She said she hadn’t yet been able to contact her friends and family in Tonga.
Some churches in New Zealand organised community prayers in Auckland and other cities.
‘We pray God will help our country at this sad moment. We hope everybody is safe,’ Maikeli Atiola, the Secretary of the Wesleyan Church of Tonga in Auckland said, Radio New Zealand reported.
Ardern said the main undersea communications cable has been impacted, likely due to loss of power.
Power was being restored in some areas on the islands and local mobile phones were slowly starting to work, she added.
Official damage assessments were not yet available, she said. But Ardern said the New Zealand high commission in Nuku’alofa had said the tsunami has damaged boats, shops and other infrastructure.
Australia said it will send a P8 surveillance aircraft to Tonga on Monday to assess damage to critical infrastructure such as roads, ports and power lines, which will determine the next phase of the response effort.
In the United States, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the country stands prepared to provide support.
He said he was ‘deeply concerned for the people of Tonga as they recover from the aftermath of a volcanic eruption and tsunami’.
Tonga’s cabinet held a crisis meeting on Sunday and was contacting development partners, a spokeswoman for Zed Seselja, Australia’s minister for international development and the Pacific told Reuters. She said Australia would sent a P8 surveillance aircraft to Tonga on Monday.
The Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano has erupted regularly over the past few decades but Saturday’s eruption was so loud that residents parts of faraway Fiji and New Zealand said they heard it.
‘My entire house was shaking,’ said Sanya Ruggiero, a Consulting Communications Advisor based in Suva, the capital of Fiji, some 750 kms from Tonga.
‘My doors, windows were all rattling like hell. And mine was not even as bad as others. Hundreds of people ran out of their homes,’ said Ruggiero, who consults for several agencies including the United Nations.
Rumblings and eruptions from the volcano continued to be heard through the night, Ruggiero said. Hundreds of people were moved to evacuation centres in Suva. Fiji Airways had to cancel all its flights due to the ash clouds.
‘This is the worst disaster Tonga has had in living memory and the recovery from this is going to take years,’ Ruggiero said.
Experts said the ash fallout could contaminate drinking water and cause respiratory issues.
‘Help will be needed to restore drinking water supplies. People of Tonga must also remain vigilant for further eruptions and especially tsunami with short notice and should avoid low lying areas,’ said Shane Cronin, professor at the School of Environment, University of Auckland.
Locals took to social media to share dramatic videos of the surging waves making land and crashing through homes and cars (pictured, still images from video filmed in Tonga and posted to social media on Saturday)
‘We are praying that the damage is just to infrastructure and people were able to get to higher land,’ she said.
Tonga gets its internet via an undersea cable from Suva, Fiji, which presumably was damaged.
Southern Cross Cable Network, the company that manages the connection, does not know yet ‘if the cable is cut or just suffering power loss,’ chief technical officer Dean Veverka said.
The Fiji-based Islands Business news site reported that a convoy of police and military troops evacuated Tonga’s King Tupou VI from his palace near the shore. He was among the many residents who headed for higher ground.
On Tonga, home to about 105,000 people, video posted to social media showed large waves washing ashore in coastal areas, swirling around homes, a church and other buildings.
New Zealand’s military said it was monitoring the situation and remained on standby, ready to assist if asked.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said there had not yet been any official reports of injuries or deaths in Tonga, but cautioned authorities had not yet made contact with some coastal areas and smaller islands.
She said: ‘Communication with Tonga remains very limited. And I know that is causing a huge amount of anxiety for the Tongan community here.’
She said there was significant damage to boats and shops along the Tongan coastline.
The New Zealand Prime Minister added Tonga’s capital of Nuku’alofa was covered in a thick film of volcanic dust that was contaminating water supplies and making fresh water a vital need.
Aid agencies said thick ash and smoke had prompted authorities to ask people to wear masks and drink bottled water.
Ms Ardern said New Zealand was unable to send a military surveillance flight over Tonga on Sunday because the ash cloud was 63,000ft (19,000 metres) high but they hoped to send the flight on Monday, followed by supply planes and navy ships.
Dave Snider, the tsunami warning co-ordinator for the National Tsunami Warning Centre in Palmer, Alaska, said it was very unusual for a volcanic eruption to affect an entire ocean basin, and the spectacle was both ‘humbling and scary’.
In Hawaii, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center reported waves that measured 1.6 feet in Nawiliwili, Kauai and 2.7 feet in Hanalei. The National Weather Service said there were reports of boats getting pushed up in docks, but the hazard diminished as the morning went on.
‘We are relieved that there is no reported damage and only minor flooding throughout the islands,’ the tsunami center said, describing the situation in Hawaii. The tsunami advisory for the islands was lifted about 11 hours after the eruption more than 3,000 miles away.
In Tonga, a Twitter user identified as Dr. Faka’iloatonga Taumoefolau posted video showing waves crashing ashore.
‘Can literally hear the volcano eruption, sounds pretty violent,’ he wrote, adding in a later post: ‘Raining ash and tiny pebbles, darkness blanketing the sky.’
The explosion of the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano was the latest in a series of dramatic eruptions.
Earth imaging company Planet Labs PBC had watched the island in recent days after a new volcanic vent there began erupting in late December.
Satellite images captured by the company show how drastically the volcano had shaped the area, creating a growing island off Tonga.
‘The surface area of the island appears to have expanded by nearly 45 per cent due to ashfall,’ Planet Labs said days before the latest activity.
Following Saturday’s eruption, residents in Hawaii, Alaska and along the U.S. Pacific coast were advised to move away from the coastline to higher ground and to pay attention to specific instructions from their local emergency management officials, said Dave Snider, tsunami warning coordinator for the National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska.
‘We don’t issue an advisory for this length of coastline as we’ve done – I’m not sure when the last time was – but it really isn’t an everyday experience,’ Snider said.
He said the waves slamming ashore in Hawaii were just under the criteria for a more serious tsunami warning.
‘It looks like everything will stay below the warning level, but it’s difficult to predict because this is a volcanic eruption, and we’re set up to measure earthquake or seismic-driven sea waves,’ Snider said.
Beaches and piers were closed across Southern California as a precaution. The National Weather Service tweeted there were ‘no significant concerns about inundation.’ Strong rip currents were possible, however, and officials warned people to stay out of the water.
On California’s central coast, the National Weather Service reported tsunami waves up to 4 feet (1.2 meters) and flooding in beach parking lots at Port San Luis. About 200 miles (320 km) down the coast, the waves were much smaller at Southern California’s Seal Beach, according to Michael Pless, the owner of M&M Surf School.
‘The waves are looking pretty flat,’ Pless said. ‘We’re hoping they reopen the beach in a couple hours.’
Crowds gathered at the Santa Cruz Harbor in California to watch the rising and falling water strain boat ties on docks. Law enforcement tried to clear people away when big surges started at around 7:30 a.m.
About an hour later, a surge went over the back lip of the harbor, filling a parking lot and low-lying streets and setting some cars afloat. In 2011 after the Japanese earthquake a series of surges cost $20million of damage in the harbour.
Although experienced surfers would consider the waves reaching the West Coast barely high enough to qualify as swells, the National Weather Service warned that tsunamis cause deceptive water surges powerful enough to pull people out to sea.
Residents of American Samoa were alerted of a tsunami warning by local broadcasters as well as church bells that rang territory-wide Saturday. An outdoor siren warning system was out of service. Those living along the shoreline quickly moved to higher ground.
As night fell, there were no reports of any damage and the Hawaii-based tsunami centre cancelled the alert.
Authorities in the nearby island nations of Fiji and Samoa also issued warnings, telling people to avoid the shoreline due to strong currents and dangerous waves. In New Zealand, officials warned of possible storm surges from the eruption.
New Zealand’s private forecaster, Weather Watch, tweeted that people as far away as Southland, the country’s southernmost region, reported hearing sonic booms from the eruption. Others reported that many boats were damaged by a tsunami that hit a marina in Whangarei, in the Northland region.
Earlier, the Matangi Tonga news site reported that scientists observed massive explosions, thunder and lightning near the volcano after it started erupting early Friday. Satellite images showed a 3-mile-wide plume rising into the air to about 12 miles.
The Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano is located about 40 miles north of the capital, Nuku’alofa. In late 2014 and early 2015, a series of eruptions in the area created a small new island and disrupted international air travel to the Pacific archipelago for several days.
There is not a significant difference between volcanoes underwater and on land, and underwater volcanoes become bigger as they erupt, at some point usually breaching the surface, said Hans Schwaiger, a research geophysicist with the Alaska Volcano Observatory.
With underwater volcanoes, however, the water can add to the explosivity of the eruption as it hits the lava, Schwaiger added.
Before an explosion, there is generally an increase in small local earthquakes at the volcano, but depending on how far it is from land, that may not be felt by residents along the shoreline, Schwaiger said.
In 2019, Tonga lost internet access for nearly two weeks when a fiber-optic cable was severed. The director of the local cable company said at the time that a large ship may have cut the cable by dragging an anchor. Until limited satellite access was restored people couldn’t even make international calls.
Southern Cross Cable Network’s Veverka said limited satellite connections exist between Tonga and other parts of the world but he did not know if they might be affected by power outages.
#AceNewsReport – Jan.15: An underwater volcano off Tonga has erupted, triggering a tsunami warning for several South Pacific island nations, including Australia and New Zealand.
#AceDailyNews #TSUNAMI WARNING Australia and New Zealand issue warnings after South Pacific undersea volcano erupts off Tonga
Kindness & Love❤️ sends 🙏’s to all the people on the island and for everyone being affected God Bless Amen
The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has issued marine warnings for coastal areas across eastern Australia, including parts of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.
Posted 3h ago, updated 23m ago
Video posted to social media showed large waves washing ashore in Tongan coastal areas on Saturday, and photos showed ash falling from the sky.
QLD: Sandy Cape to Point Danger
NSW: All coastal areas
VIC: Lakes Entrance to Gabo Island
TAS: Flinders Island to South East Cape
The BOM tsunami threat also extends to Macquarie Island, Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island.
New Zealand’s emergency management agency issued an advisory on tsunami activity for its north and east coasts.
The areas, some 2,300 kilometres from the volcano, were expected to experience strong and unusual currents, and unpredictable surges at the shore.
The Tonga Meteorological Services said a tsunami warning had been put in force for all of Tonga.
Fiji issued a tsunami warning, urging residents to avoid the shorelines “due to strong currents and dangerous waves”.
Tsunami waves measuring 60 centimetres in height were also observed by sea-level gauges at the capital of American Samoa, Pago Pago, following volcanic activity in Tonga, the US-based Pacific tsunami warning centre said.
The tsunami threat continues and sea-level fluctuations and strong ocean currents pose hazards along beaches in harbours, the tsunami monitor said in a statement.
Lasting eight minutes, the eruption could be heard as “loud thunder sounds” in Fiji, more than 800km away, officials in the capital Suva said.
Jese Tuisinu, a television reporter at Fiji One, posted a video on Twitter showing large waves washing ashore with people trying to flee in their cars.
“It is literally dark in parts of Tonga and people are rushing to safety following the eruption,” he said.
The eruption, located about 65 kilometres north of Nuku’alofa, caused a tsunami measuring 1.2 metres, the BOM said.
The federal government is “monitoring the situation and “ready to provide support to Tonga if requested”.
“Tonga is part of our Pacific family and our thoughts are with the entire community dealing with the impact of the volcanic eruption and tsunami,” a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson said.
“Initial assessments are still underway and DFAT is working to ensure Australians in Tonga are safe and accounted for.”