WATCH: Satellite Captures Incredible Underwater Volcano, Tsunami Smashes Tonga

·3 min read
via Twitter
via Twitter

A tsunami slammed into the Pacific island nation of Tonga on Saturday after an underwater volcano eruption sent waves barreling as far away as Oregon.

The incredible eruption was captured on satellite imagery and could be seen from space. “Perhaps the most violent, explosive volcanic eruption ever observed on satellite,” meteorologist and atmospheric scientist Matthew Cappucci tweeted. “Plumes to 100,000 feet, an outward explosion of gravity waves, an enormous mass of pyrocumulonimbus/volcanic thunderstorms, tens of thousands of lightning strikes, a tsunami... wow.”

U.S. National Weather Service forecaster William Churchill called it “one of the most incredible satellite animations I’ve ever seen... Waves upon waves. Simply incredible.”

The country’s largest island, Tongatapu, saw the strongest impact from the eruption 40 miles away. Video captured from the island showed waves streaming down streets, flooding its capital, Nuku’alofa, and prompting the evacuation of Tonga’s King Tupou VI, according to CNN.

No casualties have been reported yet but communication with the island remains spotty.

Residents reported seeing waves crash through physical barriers as they pummeled the islands, halting everything from choir practice to dinner. Ash and smoke clouded Nuku’alofa, and communications were knocked out.

“My first instinct was to take cover under the table,” Tongan Mere Taufa told the New Zealand news outlet Stuff. “I grabbed my little sister, and screamed at my parents and others in the house to do the same.”

“You could just hear screams everywhere, people screaming for safety, for everyone to get to higher grounds,” she added.

The National Weather Service issued tsunami advisories for virtually the entire U.S. west coast in light of the storm, ordering residents to stay away from the coast. Surges caused by explosion were filmed in California, Washington, and Oregon.

“First wave may not be the highest so later waves my be larger,” the Portland NWS tweeted.

Tsunami alerts were also issued in Fiji, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia, with beachgoers ordered to evacuate Sydney’s famous Bondi Beach.

This is the second eruption of the underwater volcano Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai in as many days. Saturday’s explosion dwarfed Friday’s blast, as captured by the National Weather Service in Honolulu. It previously erupted in 2014, forming a new island.

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