Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai may not have finished speaking. Another one “great eruption” was detected on this volcano, located in the South Pacific Ocean about 65 km from the capital of Tonga, Nuku’alofa, and already at the origin of tsunamis in the Pacific after erupting on Friday January 14.
The last eruption was captured at 11:10 p.m. Paris time on Sunday, according to an alert issued Monday, January 17, by the Australian Volcanic Ash Observation Center (VAAC) in Darwin. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, based in Hawaii (USA), also said it had located large waves in the region: “It could be from another explosion of the Tonga volcano. There are no known earthquakes of significant size that generate such a wave”.
The tsunami caused by Friday’s powerful eruption caused extensive damage in the Tonga Islands. No casualties were reported in the archipelago, but the tsunami, 10,000 km away, drowned two women, on a beach in northern Peru, due to “abnormal waves”, the local National Emergency Operations Center announced Sunday.
“Nuku’alofa is covered in a thick cloud of volcanic ash, but otherwise the situation is calm and stable”New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said after contacting her country’s embassy in Tonga. Mme Arden pointed out that the extent of the damage was difficult to assess in the small Pacific kingdom, with communications cut off.
A possibly severed submarine communication cable
Due in particular to a possibly severed submarine communication cable, the Tonga Islands could still be deprived of internet for ” two weeks “, Southern Cross Cable Network director Dean Veverka told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Monday.
New Zealand sent a reconnaissance aircraft early Monday to “an initial assessment of the impact on the low-lying area and islands”. Tonga has also accepted an Australian offer to send a surveillance plane, according to Canberra. Australia was also preparing “essential humanitarian supplies” to send. The United Nations children’s agency (UNICEF) was preparing emergency supplies for Tonga, in coordination with Australia and New Zealand. The United States and the World Health Organization have also said they are ready to send help.
Stunning views from space show the timing of Friday’s eruption of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai, on one of Tonga’s uninhabited islands. The eruption, which was heard as far away as Alaska, lasted eight minutes and sent plumes of gas, ash and smoke several miles high. The United States Geological Institute (USGS) recorded the eruption as equivalent to a magnitude 5.8 earthquake at zero depth.
Waves of 1.2 meters swept through Tonga’s capital, where residents fled to higher ground, leaving behind flooded homes as rocks and ash fell from the sky.
The eruption triggered tsunamis in the Pacific, with waves of 1.74 meters measured in Chanaral, Chile, and smaller observed along the Pacific coast from Alaska to Mexico. Waves of about 1.2 meters hit the Pacific coast of Japan. In California, the city of Santa Cruz was flooded by a tidal wave generated by the tsunami.
The Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano had emerged in an eruption in 2009, and spewed out so many large boulders and ash in 2015 that a new island two kilometers long by one kilometer wide and 100 meters high was formed.