A grab taken from footage recorded by Japan’s Himawari-8 satellite and released by the National Institute of Information and Communications, Japan, on Saturday shows the volcanic eruption that triggered a tsunami in Tonga. The eruption was so intense it was heard in Fiji, more than 800km away.—AFP
A grab taken from footage recorded by Japan’s Himawari-8 satellite and released by the National Institute of Information and Communications, Japan, on Saturday shows the volcanic eruption that triggered a tsunami in Tonga. The eruption was so intense it was heard in Fiji, more than 800km away.—AFP

WELLINGTON: An und­er­sea volcano erupted in spe­ctacular fashion near the Pac­ific nation of Tonga on Saturday, sending large tsunami waves crashing across the shore and people rushing to higher ground. A tsunami advisory was in effect for Hawaii and the US Pacific coast.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or the extent of the damage as communications with the small nation remained cut off hours after the eruption.

In Hawaii, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre reported waves slamming ashore from half a metre in Nawiliwili, Kauai, to 80 centimetres in Hanalei.

On Tonga, video posted to social media showed large waves washing ashore in coastal areas, swirling aro­und homes and buildings.

New Zealand’s military said it was monitoring the sit­u­ation and remained on sta­nd­by, ready to assist if asked.

Satellite images showed a huge eruption, a plume of ash, steam and gas rising like a mushroom above the blue Pacific waters.

The Tonga Meteorological Services said a tsunami warning was declared for all of the archipelago, and data from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre showed waves of 80 centimetres had been detected.

Residents of American Samoa were alerted of the tsunami warning by local broadcasters as well as church bells that rang territory-wide. An outdoor siren warning system was out of service. Those living along the shoreline quickly moved to higher ground.

As night fell, there were no reports of any damage and the Hawaii-based tsunami centre cancelled the alert. Authorities in the nearby island nations of Fiji and Samoa also issued warnings, telling people to avoid the shoreline due to strong currents and dangerous waves.

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2022

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