Tonga volcano: Ash turns a group of islands in the Pacific...

8 hours ago
Tonga volcano

picture released, EPA

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Satellite images show the extent of the volcano’s spread under the ocean’s surface

A massive volcanic eruption in Tonga in the Pacific Ocean led to a huge sea tidal wave (tsunami) and a large spread of ash to the Pacific islands, cutting electricity and cutting communications.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the tsunami caused “significant damage” after it tossed boats ashore and destroyed shops.

Information from Tonga about the situation is scarce, but no deaths have been reported so far.

Locals say Tonga looks “like the surface of the moon” after being covered in a thick layer of volcanic ash.

The New Zealand Prime Minister said that reports indicated that the clean water supply had been contaminated with dust, making the water supply essential.

Charities said the ash and smoke had prompted authorities to require people to wear masks to protect their lungs and to drink only bottled water.

The underwater volcano erupted on Saturday, sending a plume of ash into the sky and sending 1.2-meter tidal waves toward the beaches of Tonga. The explosion was so loud that it could be heard in New Zealand, which is 2,383 km from Tonga.

The sky was darkened by volcanic ash that blocked the sun, and videos showed traffic jams as people tried to flee from low areas by car and reach higher areas. Internet and telephone lines were also disrupted hours later in Tonga, making access to the island’s 105,000 residents very difficult.

Tonga volcano
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So far there are no pictures or information from Tonga, but satellites are monitoring the area

Ardern said electricity was restored to some parts of the island and cell phones were slowly working again. But the situation in some coastal areas remained unknown.

And the citizens of Tonga in Australia and New Zealand became increasingly concerned about their families, as they had no contact with their friends and families at home.

Fatima said she had not heard anything from her colleague who runs a waterfront restaurant in Nuku’alofa, Tonga’s capital.

“It’s very sad and we hope for the best,” she told the BBC. “This will affect them severely because they have been in lockdown for a long time with no tourist visiting and now this has happened.”

New Zealand and Australia are sending reconnaissance flights to assess the extent of the damage in the area.

Satellite images indicate that some remote islands have been completely submerged by sea water.

Experts say the eruption of the Honga-Tonga-Hunga-Hapai volcano is the most violent in the region in decades.

The eight-minute explosion triggered tsunami warnings in several Pacific countries, including Japan and the United States, and caused flooding in some coastal parts of California and Alaska.

Satellites reveal a glimpse of the devastation

Analysis by Jonathan Amos, science reporter

Scientists got their first look at the eruption of the Honga-Tonga-Hunga-Hapae volcano on Saturday when the European Sentinel-1A satellite flew overhead.

This spacecraft is a radar platform that can see through thick clouds and even penetrate ash and reach and photograph the surface of the Earth or the sea.

It clearly showed that most of the rim of the crater that was above the ocean waters had been destroyed – evidence of the ferocity of the eruption.

Researchers will be keen to understand why the tsunami created waves, not only on neighboring islands, but also on the beaches around the Pacific Ocean.

To what extent was the explosion itself responsible for the tsunami?

Pressure waves can create so-called “meteotsunami” due to changing atmospheric pressure and atmospheric factors, not just water.

Or perhaps the movement and displacement of water was the result of an invisible collapse of a section of the volcano under the ocean’s surface.

More data to unfold in the coming days and weeks should reveal the facts.

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