Submarine volcano erupts in Pacific, Tonga islanders rush to escape tsunami

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A submarine volcano erupted dramatically on Saturday near the Pacific nation of Tonga, sending tsunami waves to the coast and people rushing to higher areas.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or the extent of the damage, as communications with the small nation remained problematic. The video posted on social media showed big waves crawling in the coastal areas, revolving around houses and buildings.

The New Zealand military said it was monitoring the situation and remained on standby, ready to help if asked.

In Canada, a tsunami warning was issued for parts of the BC coast, specifically the North Coast and Haida Gwaii, the central and northeast coast of Vancouver Island, the island’s outer west coast. of Vancouver and the Juan de Fuca Strait Coast.

Details about the eruption

Satellite images showed a large eruption. Tonga weather services said there was a tsunami alert in place for all of Tonga. Authorities in the nearby island nations of Fiji and Samoa also issued warnings, telling people to avoid the coast because of strong currents and dangerous waves.

Data from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center showed that 80-centimeter waves had been detected.

The Islands Business news site reported that a convoy of police and military troops evacuated Tonga King Tupou VI from his palace near the coast. He was one of many residents heading to higher ground.

The eruption of the Hunga Tonga volcano Hunga Ha’apai was the latest in a series of spectacular eruptions.

White gaseous clouds emerge from an eruption of Hunga Ha’apai volcano on December 21, 2021, seen from the coast of Patangata, near the Tongan capital, Nuku’alofa. (Mary Lyn Fonua / AFP / Getty Images)

A Twitter user identified as Dr. Faka’iloatonga Taumoefolau posted a video showing the waves crashing to the ground.

“You can literally hear the eruption of the volcano, it sounds pretty violent,” he wrote, adding in a later post, “It’s raining ash and tiny pebbles, darkness covers the sky.”

Earlier, the Matangi Tonga news site reported that scientists had observed massive explosions, thunder and lightning near the volcano after it began to erupt early on Friday.

The site said satellite images showed a five-kilometer-wide plume of ash, steam and gas rising into the air for up to about 20 kilometers.

New Zealanders warned of storm surges

More than 2,300 miles away in New Zealand, officials warned of storm surges from the eruption.

The National Emergency Management Agency said parts of New Zealand could expect “strong, unusual currents and unpredictable waves on the coast after a major volcanic eruption.”

On Saturday, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the threat to American Samoa appeared to have passed, although minor sea fluctuations could continue.

The volcano is located about 64 kilometers north of the capital, Nuku’alofa. In late 2014 and early 2015, a series of eruptions in the area created a small new island and disrupted international air travel to the Pacific archipelago for several days.

Tonga is home to about 105,000 people.

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