The violent eruption of an underwater volcano near the island of Tonga, in the South Pacific Ocean, has caused a tsunami that has hit the coasts of this island nation and raised alarms in other countries in the region and on the American continent. “Waves of about 1.2 meters have been recorded in Nukualofa [the capital of Tonga, with about 24,500 inhabitants],” the Australian Meteorological Service reported on its Twitter account. The local authorities of Tonga, with some 71,000 inhabitants, have not reported any victims at the moment, while local media warn that several areas of the country remain incommunicado.
The effects of the volcano are also felt in America. In Mexico, the Secretary of the Navy warned of high tides on the coasts of Manzanillo, Colima, and Zihuatanejo (Guerrero) where tidal rises of between one meter and one and a half meters in height can already be seen. Ecuador and Chile are closely following the eruption and announced a “small tsunami” on Easter Island. In Peru, the coast of Paracas has seen how the sea entered the urban area and damaged premises and adjoining houses, causing the fright of tourists who were warned of the alert. The same warning was heard in the United States: “Get out of the beaches, ports and marinas” of the coasts from California (west) to Alaska, said the National Weather Service of the United States, which predicted strong waves and currents and coastal flooding. . At the same time, in the Hawaiian archipelago, on the Pacific Ocean, “minor flooding” was reported in the islands.
The submarine volcano Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai, located about 65 kilometers north of the Tongan island of Tongatapu, had previously registered an eruption of about eight minutes at around 5:20 p.m. local time and released a huge column of ash to kilometers high. The violent explosion has been recorded in images taken by several satellites, as published by the Meteorological Service of the American island of Hawaii.
About 15 minutes later, the fierce onslaught of the waves hit the houses and buildings located on the first line of the north coast of Tongatapu, according to the videos published on social networks by several witnesses, some of whom took refuge on the roof of their houses. houses. Another of the recordings shows at least five people, including some children, sheltered in a local church just as the water begins to hit the windows of the religious compound. A driver caught in his flight the sudden rise of the waters, which was destroying walls and fences, while another car tried to avoid being caught by driving in reverse. The Radio New Zealand station has reported scenes of panic where people tried to flee to inland areas of the island.
In Mexico, the Tsunami Warning Center of the Secretary of the Navy warned of high tides on the coasts of Manzanillo, Colima, and Zihuatanejo, Guerrero. The Navy asked vessels, the population and service providers that carry out port activities to be careful due to the possible presence of strong currents in national ports. He warned that in Manzanillo the tide reaches a meter and a half in height, while in Zihuatanejo it is one meter. There was a similar increase in the tide in Salina Cruz (Oaxaca) and Puerto Chiapas. The tide rose less than 30 centimeters in Baja California. The Navy, however, ruled out tsunamis. “Sea level monitoring continues. Maintain precautions for ships, population and port activities in the coastal zone due to the possible presence of strong currents in national ports”, was the entire warning. In Chile, the authorities announced a “minor tsunami” on Easter Island, and in Peru, the eruption affected the Paracas pier, south of Lima, causing damage to premises and homes in the area. As reported by Canal N, on Lagunilla beach, the waves affected restaurants, while in the San Andrés area various boats were damaged by the waves. The bathers who had arrived at the scene had to leave the area for safety, while the merchants proceeded to close their stores.
The Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano already registered an increase in its activity on Friday, which temporarily triggered another tsunami alert, but that did not result in rising waters. In the face of the current emergency, the Tonga authorities have asked the entire population to stay away from beaches and coastlines until 4:00 p.m. on Sunday and to wear a mask in the face of ash rain.
Unlike tsunamis triggered by earthquakes, where tectonic plates unload their force and a second tsunami is unlikely, the volcano could again register a violent eruption capable of creating another ferocious tidal wave.
In addition to Tonga, the neighboring island states of Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu also issued a tsunami warning, which threatens the coast of New Zealand, more than 2,300 kilometers away from the volcano, and Australia. Likewise, the National Emergency Office of Chile has asked citizens to leave the beaches of the Juan Fernández Archipelago, San Félix Islands, Easter Island and Chilean Antarctica “in view of the possibility of a minor tsunami in said sectors.” Ecuador’s National Tsunami Warning Center also issued a warning. Meanwhile, in the Hawaiian archipelago, on the Pacific Ocean, “minor flooding” was reported on the islands. The impact took place despite the fact that the Californian coast is located almost 8,700 kilometers from Tonga.
The Pacific coast of Japan has also been hit this morning, which has led the Japanese authorities to issue a warning and request the evacuation of thousands of people. The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) predicts that the tsunami waves could reach three meters in the Amami and Tokara (southwest) and Iwate (northeast) islands, and up to one meter on the east coast. The highest height recorded so far was observed on the island of Amami Oshima shortly before midnight, at 1.2 meters. Images recorded by neighbors and shared on social networks have shown traffic jams on the local roads of the island on their way to escape to higher places.
More than 100 families from two villages on the Samoan island of Savaii, north of Tonga, have been evacuated, police have reported, while photos posted on social media show that waves have hit part of Vanua Levu island, in northeastern Fiji.
Vanuatu authorities called for “immediate evacuation” of coastal areas due to strong currents and waves. “Destructive tsunami waves estimated between 1 and 2.5 meters have been observed on some of our islands in Vanuatu. Tsunami waves are expected to remain possible along the coasts of all Vanuatu islands tonight,” the Vanuatu Meteorological and Geological Hazards Department said in a statement, confirming the arrival of waves in Port Vila. and Litzlitz.
The New Zealand Emergency Management Agency has indicated on Twitter that they expect “strong currents and unusual unpredictable swells” on the north and east coast of the North Island and the Chatham Islands of the oceanic country. The Australian Meteorological Service, after ruling out a tsunami alert for hours, predicted that a large wave could hit coastal areas in the east and southeast of the country, from the state of Queensland to the island of Tasmania.