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A tsunami hits the Tongan capital following an underwater volcano eruption




A four-legged tsunami was reported to have hit Tonga’s capital, Nukualofa, on Saturday, sending people rushing to higher ground. Witnesses said the ash had fallen from the sky after an underwater volcano erupted earlier near a remote Pacific location.

The volcano, Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haapai, is about 40 miles north of the main island of the Pacific archipelago, Tongatapu.

The Bureau of Meteorology in Australia reported the tsunami on Twitter. But communication with Tonga was cut off, according to the Associated Press, so there are no immediate official reports of injury or the extent of the damage.

The Tonga Meteorological Service issued a tsunami alert for the archipelago on Saturday evening. Above them Facebook pages, meteorological services for nearby Fiji and Samoa also issued alerts, advising people to stay away from low-lying coastal areas.

The National Tsunami Warning Center in the United States issued a tsunami alert West coast Saturday morning Pacific hour, including the coasts of Washington and Oregon, with the Portland National Weather Service reporting possible waves of one to three feet in Newport, Ore., Long Beach, Wash. and Seaside, Ore. The first wave may not be the highest, and the subsequent waves may be bigger, it was said on Twitter.

The volcano had been relatively inactive for several years, but began to erupt intermittently in December. By January 3, activity had dropped significantly, according to a report from the Smithsonian Institution Global Volcanism Program.

In 2014, the volcano erupted, creating a new island that eventually became home to thriving vegetation and barn owls. according to the BBC.

Satellite images of the blast on Saturday, shared on Twitter by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research of New Zealand, showed a brief rise in air pressure as the atmospheric shock wave pulsed throughout New Zealand.

Other recent infrared satellite images suggested the underwater volcano was still erupting, and despite Tonga’s geographical isolation, a thunderous sound was heard after the initial eruption as far as New Zealand (which is 1,100 miles northeast of Tongatapu). ) according to Weather Watch. a private weather forecaster in place.

According to early reports, Saturday’s explosion sent a mass of gas and ash about 12 miles (20 kilometers) into the atmosphere.

New Zeland National Agency for Emergency Management issued a statement Saturday advising people in coastal areas to expect strong and unusual currents and unpredictable waves on shore.

In a topic on Twitter, Dr. Janine Krippner, a volcanologist at Smithsonian Institution, said most of the volcano is submarine.

The strength and potential impact of an eruption is estimated using a volcanic explosiveness index, or VEI, which takes into account the volume of material ejected during the eruption and how high the plume reaches. Saturday’s eruption VEI has not yet been estimated, but before the eruption, the volcano was estimated to be able to produce an eruption with a maximum VEI of 2.

Explosions with a VEI of 6 or higher send so much gas and particles so high into the atmosphere that they can have a cooling effect on the climate for several years, reflecting more sunlight away from the Earth’s surface. But eruptions of that magnitude occur very rarely. The last was Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991.

Henry Fountain contributed to reporting.




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