The death toll on the ash-strewn Pacific island of Tonga remains unknown after a severe tsunami flooded houses and knocked off the internet.

An underwater volcano in Tonga erupted, causing a 7.4 magnitude earthquake that was visible from space and brought tsunami waves slamming into the Pacific island's coast, covering it in ash and cutting it off from rescue.

On Saturday, waves of up to 4.1 feet were reported in Port San Luis, California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska, while tsunami-effect waves were recorded along the coast in California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska.

Despite the severe warnings, onlookers went to the beaches to see the swelling tsunami waves, while surfers threw caution to the wind in order to catch the tremendous waves caused by the surge.

Tsunami-hit On Sunday, Tonga was virtually unreachable due to lost phone and internet connectivity, leaving family in far-flung New Zealand praying for their loved ones on the Pacific islands while fatality reports were still coming in.

Surveillance planes from New Zealand are unable to evaluate the amount of damage due to a large ash cloud engulfing the tiny island country of Tonga.

The explosion was 'hugely worrying,' according to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who added that authorities were still working to establish full contacts with Tonga.

Tonga has thus far managed to prevent any outbreaks of Covid-19, which complicates any international relief attempt.

Ms Ardern stated that New Zealand's military personnel were all properly vaccinated and willing to follow Tonga's regulations.

Tonga's immediate worry is the safety of its air and water owing to ash and smoke. For the time being, the government has advised everyone to wear masks and drink bottled water.

Tsunami warnings have been issued for Hawaii, Alaska, and the Pacific coast of the United States. As waves of more than a metre struck coastal regions, hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians were warned to flee.

The eruption, according to the US Geological Survey, triggered a magnitude 5.8 earthquake. Tsunamis caused by volcanoes rather than earthquakes, according to scientists, are rather infrequent.

The strong waves were felt in Japan, New Zealand, and Australia, with a 6,000-mile-away deafening boom reported in Alaska.

Dramatic official aerial maps showed the eruption cloud over Tonga after the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai volcanco erupted. Pictured: Satellite images of the volanic eruption in the Pacific Ocean on Saturday

Dramatic official aerial maps showed the eruption cloud over Tonga after the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai volcanco erupted. Pictured: Satellite images of the volanic eruption in the Pacific Ocean on Saturday

Tonga volcano eruption as seen from Himawari-8 of the Japan Meteorological Agency. Hundreds of frightened Tongans fled to higher ground as the eruption triggered a tsunami in the island nation, with a four-foot wave observed in Tonga's capital Nuku'alofa

Tonga volcano eruption as seen from Himawari-8 of the Japan Meteorological Agency. Hundreds of frightened Tongans fled to higher ground as the eruption triggered a tsunami in the island nation, with a four-foot wave observed in Tonga's capital Nuku'alofa

 
Pictured: Satellite imagery shows the underwater explosion (left). The images showed a three-mile-wide plume rising into the air to about 12 miles

Pictured: Satellite imagery shows the underwater explosion (left). The images showed a three-mile-wide plume rising into the air to about 12 miles

 
People look at a damaged boat in a marina at Tutukaka, New Zealand, after waves from a volcano eruption swept into the marina
People look at a damaged boat in a marina at Tutukaka, New Zealand, after waves from a volcano eruption swept into the marina
 
The explosion knocked off the internet in Tonga, leaving friends and family members across the world scrambling to find out whether anybody was hurt and the extent of the devastation on Sunday. Even official government websites and other sources remained unaffected.

A massive eruption was seen on satellite pictures, with a cloud of ash, steam, and gas rising over the water. As far as Alaska, a sonic boom could be heard.

A tsunami warning has been issued for the whole archipelago, according to the Tonga Meteorological Services, and waves of 2.7 feet have been observed, according to data from the Pacific Tsunami Center.Rachel Afeaki-Taumoepeau, head of the New Zealand Tonga Business Council, expressed hope that the tsunami waves were reasonably moderate, allowing most people to escape to safety, while she expressed concern for those living on the islands nearest to the volcano.

She stated that she had not been able to contact her Tonga friends and relatives.

In Auckland and other New Zealand cities, several churches organized community prayers.

'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.

The primary underwater communications cable has been damaged, according to Ardern, most likely owing to a lack of electricity.

She noted that power was being restored in certain portions of the islands and that local cellphones were slowly starting to operate.

She stated that official damage assessments were not yet available. The New Zealand high commission in Nuku'alofa, however, stated the tsunami had destroyed boats, businesses, and other infrastructure, according to Ardern.

On Monday, Australia announced it will dispatch a P8 surveillance plane to Tonga to examine damage to essential infrastructure including as roads, ports, and power lines, which will help identify the next steps in the response operation.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken of the United States stated that the government is ready to assist.

He said he was 'deeply concerned for the people of Tonga as they recover from the aftermath of a volcanic eruption and tsunami'.

In this satellite image taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite, and released by the agency, shows an undersea volcano eruption at the Pacific nation of Tonga Saturday

In this satellite image taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite, and released by the agency, shows an undersea volcano eruption at the Pacific nation of Tonga Saturday

 
A surfer defies warnings to stay out of the water and catches a wave at Manhattan Beach in El Segundo, California Saturday
A surfer defies warnings to stay out of the water and catches a wave at Manhattan Beach in El Segundo, California Saturday
 
A spokesperson for Australia's minister for international development and the Pacific, Zed Seselja, told Reuters that Tonga's cabinet conducted a crisis meeting on Sunday and was in contact with development partners. On Monday, she added, Australia will send a P8 surveillance plane to Tonga.

The Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai volcano has erupted on a regular basis for decades, but Saturday's eruption was so strong that it was heard in areas of Fiji and New Zealand.

'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.

 
A tsunami has struck Tonga sending terrified locals fleeing for high ground as huge waves crashed over roads and into homes (pictured, tsunami waves begin to overwhelm coastal homes in Tonga on Saturday)
A tsunami has struck Tonga sending terrified locals fleeing for high ground as huge waves crashed over roads and into homes (pictured, tsunami waves begin to overwhelm coastal homes in Tonga on Saturday)
 

'We are praying that the damage is just to infrastructure and people were able to get to higher land,' she said.

Tonga obtains its internet from Suva, Fiji, through an underwater cable that was apparently destroyed.

The business that maintains the link, Southern Cross Cable Network, is unsure 'whether the cable is severed or merely experiencing power loss,' according to chief technical officer Dean Veverka.

A convoy of police and military forces withdrew Tonga's King Tupou VI from his residence near the coast, according to the Fiji-based Islands Business news site. He was one of several locals who fled to higher ground.

Large waves washed ashore in coastal parts of Tonga, which has a population of around 105,000 people, according to video uploaded on social media. The waters swirled around homes, a church, and other structures.

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 that the Tongan shoreline had suffered substantial damage to boats and stores.

Tonga's capital, Nuku'alofa, is blanketed in a thick layer of volcanic dust, which is poisoning water sources and making fresh water a critical requirement, according to the New Zealand Prime Minister.

Authorities had asked residents to wear masks and drink bottled water due to dense ash and smoke, according to humanitarian organisations.

Ms Ardern said that because the ash cloud was 63,000ft (19,000 meters) high on Sunday, New Zealand was unable to send a military surveillance flight over Tonga, but that the flight will be sent on Monday, followed by supply planes and naval ships.The National Tsunami Warning Centre's tsunami warning co-ordinator, Dave Snider, said it was unprecedented for a volcanic eruption to effect a whole ocean basin, and the view was both "humbling and frightening."

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii recorded 1.6-foot waves at Nawiliwili, Kauai, and 2.7-foot waves in Hanalei. There were reports of boats being forced up against docks, according to the National Weather Service, although the risk lessened as the morning progressed.

'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 Seal Beach, California, residents ignored warnings to stay away from the beach and flocked to the municipal pier to take pictures of the waves after a tsunami advisory was issued

In Seal Beach, California, residents ignored warnings to stay away from the beach and flocked to the municipal pier to take pictures of the waves after a tsunami advisory was issued

 
Spectators flock to view waves from the Seal Beach municipal pier after a tsunami advisory was issued following an underwater volcano eruption around 5,300 miles away
Spectators flock to view waves from the Seal Beach municipal pier after a tsunami advisory was issued following an underwater volcano eruption around 5,300 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.  

Large waves move in near Santa Cruz on Saturday. Inundation is not expected, but a tsunami advisory means there could be dangerous currents and strong waves along the coast

Large waves move in near Santa Cruz on Saturday. Inundation is not expected, but a tsunami advisory means there could be dangerous currents and strong waves along the coast

Large waves are seen in San Mateo County at around 8.10am on Saturday as a tsunami moved ashore

Large waves are seen in San Mateo County at around 8.10am on Saturday as a tsunami moved ashore

Joggers stretch next to a tsunami hazard zone sign in El Segundo, California, on January 15, 2022. The US National Weather Service issued tsunami advisories for the entire west coast of the United States following a massive volcanic eruption

Joggers stretch next to a tsunami hazard zone sign in El Segundo, California, on January 15, 2022. The US National Weather Service issued tsunami advisories for the entire west coast of the United States following a massive volcanic eruption

 
Pictured: Image captured by NOAA's GOES West satellite and made available by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows an explosive eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano, located in the South Pacific Kingdom of Tonga, 13 January 2022
Pictured: Image captured by NOAA's GOES West satellite and made available by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows an explosive eruption of the Hunga
 
As a precaution, beaches and piers were closed throughout Southern California. 'No substantial worries for flooding,' according to the National Weather Service. However, officials advised that strong rip currents were likely, and that people should keep out of the sea.

The National Weather Service at Port San Luis, California, recorded tsunami waves up to 4 feet (1.2 meters) and flooding in beach parking lots. According to Michael Pless, proprietor of M&M Surf School in Seal Beach, California, the waves were significantly smaller around 200 miles (320 kilometers) down the coast.

'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 observe the rising and dropping water put a pressure on the docks' boat ties. When large crowds began to form about 7:30 a.m., law officers attempted to clear the area.

A wave swept over the harbor's rear lip an hour later, flooding a parking lot and low-lying streets and stranding several automobiles. Following the 2011 earthquake in Japan, a succession of surges caused $20 million in damage to the harbour.

The National Weather Service cautioned that tsunamis generate misleading water surges powerful enough to carry people out to sea, despite the fact that experienced surfers would consider the waves hitting the West Coast barely high enough to qualify as swells.Local broadcasters as well as church bells rung across American Samoa on Saturday to notify residents of a tsunami warning. The exterior siren warning system has stopped working. Those who lived along the water's edge swiftly relocated to higher land.

As night fell, there were no reports of damage, thus the tsunami warning was canceled by the Hawaii-based tsunami center.
 
The eruption (pictured from a satellite) could be heard thousands of kilometres away and sparked warnings in New Zealand, Fiji and American Samoa

The eruption (pictured from a satellite) could be heard thousands of kilometres away and sparked warnings in New Zealand, Fiji and American Samoa

 
A tsunami advisory (orange) is in effect for Hawaii and the entire US Pacific seaboard, from the US/Mexico border all the way to the tip of Alaska's Aleutian Islands, after an undersea volcano erupted near Tonga
A tsunami advisory (orange) is in effect for Hawaii and the entire US Pacific seaboard, from the US/Mexico border all the way to the tip of Alaska's Aleutian Islands, after an undersea volcano erupted near Tonga
Authorities in the neighboring island nations of Fiji and Samoa also issued warnings, advising residents to stay away from the coast owing to strong currents and hazardous surf. Officials in New Zealand have warned of probable storm surges as a result of the eruption.

People as far away as Southland, New Zealand's southernmost district, reported hearing sonic booms from the eruption, according to Weather Watch, a private forecaster. A tsunami that slammed a marina in Whangarei, in the Northland area, damaged numerous boats, according to others.

Scientists recorded tremendous explosions, thunder, and lightning around the volcano when it began erupting early Friday, according to the Matangi Tonga news site. A 3-mile-wide plume rose into the air to a height of roughly 12 miles, according to satellite photographs.The Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha'apai volcano is about 40 miles north of Nuku'alofa, the country's capital. A series of eruptions in the area in late 2014 and early 2015 formed a small new island and interrupted international aviation access to the Pacific archipelago for several days.

According to Hans Schwaiger, a research geophysicist at the Alaska Volcano Observatory, there is no substantial difference between volcanoes underwater and on land, and underwater volcanoes grow in size when they erupt, eventually breaching the surface.

However, when it comes to underwater volcanoes, the water might add to the explosivity of the eruption as it meets the lava, according to Schwaiger.Before an eruption, the volcano usually experiences an increase in minor local tremors, but depending on how distant it is from land, inhabitants near the coastline may not notice, according to Schwaiger.

When a fiber-optic cable was severed in Tonga in 2019, the country went without internet for over two weeks. A huge ship may have severed the cable by pulling an anchor, according to the director of the local cable firm at the time. People couldn't even make international calls until restricted satellite service was restored.

Limited satellite links exist between Tonga and other areas of the world, according to Veverka of the Southern Cross Cable Network, but he does not know if they are impacted by power outages.

Follow us on Google News

Filed under

Recent Search