Tonga: Satellite images capture moment volcano erupts
The undersea Tonga volcano triggered a 7.4 magnitude earthquake. The quake sent tsunami waves crashing into the coast of the Pacific island, which has been left covered in ash and cut off from aid. Waves from the Tsunami have struck California as evacuation alerts were issued in Australia, Japan and the US.
Locals raced towards the higher ground as waves of almost 3ft (90cm) filled the streets of Tonga after the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupted on Saturday.
The Pacific island remained largely uncontactable on Sunday. Relatives in New Zealand have been left praying for their families as casualty reports have yet to come through.
Internet and phone lines went down at about 6.40pm local time on Saturday. The island’s 107,000 residents have been virtually unreachable since.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a news conference on Sunday that there are no official reports of injuries or deaths in Tonga as yet and contact has not been established with coastal areas beyond the capital Nuku’alofa.
Ms Ardern said: “Nuku’alofa is covered in thick plumes of volcanic dust but otherwise conditions are calm and stable.”
Radio New Zealand reported Maikeli Atiola, the Secretary of the Wesleyan Church of Tonga in Auckland, as saying: “We pray God will help our country at this sad moment. We hope everybody is safe.”
Tsunami alerts were issued at countries around the Pacific.
Surfers take to the water in the US after a tsunami advisory issued for Hawaii and the West Coast
The eruptions triggered tsunami warnings across the Pacific with US authorities urging people on its Pacific coastline to stay away from the shores. Beaches were closed in New South Wales, Australia.
Reuters reports that hundreds of thousands of Japanese citizens were advised to evacuate as waves of more than a metre hit coastal areas.
In a briefing, an official from Japan Meteorological Agency urged people not to go near the sea until the tsunami advisory and more serious tsunami warnings had been lifted.
Waves as high as 10ft (3m) were expected in the Amami islands to the south of Japan.
Capsized boats in Japan.
An image which reportedly shows the scene in Tonga as waves swept the island.
NHK reported that about 230,000 people were advised to evacuate from eight prefectures due to the tsunami risk. The alert included areas hit by the deadly 2011 tsunami in Japan.
Ten boats were capsized in Kochi prefecture on Shikoku in southern Japan and Japan Airlines cancelled 27 flights at airports across the country.
In California, cities including Santa Monica and Santa Cruz, have been hit by flooding due to the tsunami with beaches closed to the public.
Dave Snider, Tsunami Warning Coordinator at the National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska, told CNN: “We have seen the wave moving through Hawaiian Island.
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The world’s deadliest earthquakes.
“We don’t have a really good forecast because this event is based on a volcano rather than earthquake.”
Officials have said that the eruption was so intense it was heard as loud thunder sounds in Fiji, which is more than 500 miles away from the volcano.
Shocking satellite images show the huge eruption which went on for at least eight minutes, sending giant plumes of gas, ash and smoke miles into the air.
The Tonga Meteorological Services said a tsunami warning had been put in force for all of Tonga on Saturday.
Hundreds of people were moved to evacuation centres in Suva and Fiji Airways had to cancel all flights due to ash clouds.
Surf rescue workers in Sydney, Australia.
Experts say ash fallout could contaminate drinking water and cause breathing issues with help needed to restore drinking water supplies.
Shane Cronin, professor at the School of Environment, University of Auckland, warned that Tongans must remain vigilant for further eruptions and avoid low lying areas.
He explained that research shows the volcano saw minor eruptions in 2009 and 2014-15, with with radiocarbon dating suggesting there were two major eruptions in 1100 and another in the year 200.
Roger Musson, a seismologist at the British geological survey, told Sky News: “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.
“Tonga lies in what’s known as the Kermadec subduction zone. It’s a very seismically active area. And where you have subduction – where one crustal plate dips below another one – you also get volcanoes.
“This submarine volcano has been active for a few years now, but this is far and away the largest eruption it’s produced.”