Tsunami triggered by a huge volcanic eruption under the Pacific ocean left towns across Tonga damaged, say reports

·3 min read
The underwater eruption near Tonga has flooded the island
The underwater eruption near Tonga has flooded the islandBurak Arik/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images/Tonga Meteorological Services, Government of Tonga
  • A massive undersea volcano eruption followed by a tsunami left Tonga flooded and covered in ash.

  • No casualties have been reported on the island nation in the south Pacific.

  • Seismologists say this is the biggest eruption from the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha'apai volcano.

Tsunami waves have flooded the Pacific island nation of Tonga after an undersea volcano, the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha'apai volcano, erupted 40 miles from the island.

Towns are now damaged by seawater, and the capital city Nuku'alofa is covered in 2cm of thick of thick volcanic ash, say reports.

Aid agencies said the ash and smoke had prompted authorities to urge Tongans to wear masks and drink bottled water, Sky News reported.

There have been no reports of any deaths or injuries.

Dramatic footage on social media shows people scrambling to flee the tsunami as waves crashed ashore and into their homes.

One Tongan resident, Mere Taufa, spoke to the New Zealand news site Stuff.co.nz and said the eruption hit as her family was preparing for dinner.

"My first instinct was to take cover under the table. I grabbed my little sister and screamed at my parents and others in the house to do the same."

Taufa said that, suddenly, water started filling her home.

"You could just hear screams everywhere, people screaming for safety, for everyone to get to higher ground," she said.

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that he is "deeply concerned" for the people of Tonga and pledged the USA's support to the Pacific Island Nation.

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Arden said that "there's a lot we don't know" about the situation in Tonga, and that the New Zealand airforce will deliver water, food, and medical supplies.

A map showing where Tonga is located
A map showing where Tonga is located in the South Pacific.Google Maps/Insider
A map showing where Tonga is located
A map showing where Tonga is located, in relation to the volcano.Google Maps/Insider

She added that "Communication with Tonga remains very limited. And I know that is causing a huge amount of anxiety for the Tongan community here."

She also confirmed that $500,000 NZD ($340,073.13 USD) has been made available for immediate needs in Tonga.

The tsunami had an impact across the Pacific rim with high waves reported in Peru, New Zealand, and along the US west coast, as far north as Alaska.

The eruption was one of the biggest in Tonga in the past 30 years, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said. They added that, during the initial eight-minutes, the explosion was so violent it could be heard as "loud thunder sounds" in Fiji, more than 800km away.

Speaking to Sky News, a seismologist at the British geological survey Roger Musson said that the undersea volcano had been active for many years, but that this was the "largest eruption it had produced."

"There was an eruption of the same volcano about a year or so ago, but this one is seven times larger, which is really rather big" he added.

Satellite images documenting the event showed a violent undersea eruption, with data from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center saying waves of 80 centimeters (2.6 feet) had been detected.

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