The eruption of an underwater volcano off Tonga, which triggered a tsunami warning for several South Pacific island nations, is seen in an image from the NOAA GOES-West satellite taken at 05:00 GMT January 15, 2022. CIRA/NOAA/Handout via REUTERS

Massive Tonga Volcano Eruption Triggers Pacific Tsunami

Reuters
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January 15, 2022
Reuters

By Jahnavi Nidumolu and Renju Jose

Jan 15 (Reuters) – An underwater volcano off Tonga erupted on Saturday, triggering a tsunami warning for several South Pacific island nations, with footage on social media showing waves crashing into homes.

Tsunami waves were observed in Tonga’s capital and the capital of American Samoa, a U.S.-based tsunami monitor said.

The eruption at 0410 GMT of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai underwater volcano, located about 65 km (40 miles) north of Nuku’alofa, caused a 1.2-meter (4-ft) tsunami, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said.

The agency said it continued to monitor the situation but no tsunami threat had been issued to the Australian mainland, islands or territories.

Tsunami waves of 2.7 feet (83 cm) were observed by gauges at theTongan capital of Nuku’alofa and waves of 2 ft at Pago Pago, the capital of American Samoa, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.

Fiji issued a tsunami warning, urging residents to avoid the shorelines “due to strong currents and dangerous waves.”

Jese Tuisinu, a television reporter at Fiji One, posted a video on Twitter showing large waves washing ashore, with people trying to flee from the oncoming waves in their cars.

“It is literally dark in parts of Tonga and people are rushing to safety following the eruption,” he said.

New Zealand’s emergency management agency issued an advisory on tsunami activity for its north and east coasts with the areas expected to experience strong and unusual currents, and unpredictable surges at the shore.

On Friday, the volcano sent ash, steam and gas up to 20 km (12 miles) into the air, Tonga Geological Services said in a Facebook post. It has a radius of 260 km (160 miles).

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Honolulu said a tsunami advisory remains in effect for the U.S. state of Hawaii, where tsunami waves were reported early Saturday morning.

The center also said tsunami advisories are in place for Attu island in western Alaska and along the California-Mexico border.

(Reporting by Jahnavi Nidumolu and Shubham Kalia in Bengaluru, and Renju Jose in Sydney; additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici in Washington; Editing by William Mallard, Muralikumar Anantharaman and Marguerita Choy)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2022.

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