The violent eruption of an underwater volcano near tonga, in the South Pacific, has caused a tsunami that has hit the coasts of this island nation and the evacuation of hundreds of people, and has set off alarms in other countries in the region. The brutal explosion has been recorded in the satellite images, according to the Meteorological Service of the American island of Hawaii.
“Waves of about 12 meters have been recorded in Nuku’alofa”, the capital of Tonga, with 24,500 inhabitants, the Australian Meteorological Service reported on Twitter.
The local authorities of Tonga, with some 71,000 inhabitants, have so far reported victims, while local media warn that several areas of the country remain incommunicado.
The submarine volcano Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai, located about 65 kilometers north of the Tongan island of Tongatapu and about 30 southeast of the island of Fonuafo’ou, has recorded an eruption of about eight minutes around 5:20 p.m. local time (5:20 a.m. Spanish time) and has launched a huge column of ash 20 kilometers high. In addition, the eruption has been accompanied by a earthquake of preliminary magnitude 4.0, according to data from the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
The fierce onslaught of the waves has hit homes and buildings settled on the northern shoreline of Tongatapu about 15 minutes later, according to videos posted on social media by witnesses, some of whom were sheltering on the roof of their homes.
Another recording shows at least five peopleincluding children, sheltered in a local church just when the water begins to hit the windows of the religious enclosure.
A driver caught in his flight the sudden rise of the waters, which was destroying walls and fences, while another car trying to avoid getting caught traveling in reverse.
Radio New Zealand station reports scenes of panic where people try to flee to inland areas.
El Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai already recorded an increase in activity on Friday which temporarily triggered another tsunami alert, but that did not result in rising waters.
Given the current emergency, the Tongan authorities have asked the entire population to stay away from beaches and coastlines until 4:00 p.m. on Sunday (4:00 a.m. Spanish time) and use of 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 to recur, the volcano could re-register a violent eruption that would create 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.
More than 100 families from two villages on the Samoan island of Savaii have been evacuated.Police report, while photos posted on social networks show that the waves have hit part of Vanua Levu Island, in northeastern Fiji.
Vanuatu authorities called the “immediate evacuation” from coastal areas due to strong currents and waves.
“Have been observed destructive tsunami waves estimated between 1 and 2.5 meters 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.
For its part, 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 estimates, after ruling out a tsunami warning for hours, 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.