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Tsunami threat recedes from a huge Pacific volcanic eruption

Wellington, New Zealand (AP) —The extent of damage to Tonga remained unknown, but the threat of a tsunami around the Pacific Ocean from a large submarine volcanic eruption began to recede on Sunday.

Satellite images show a spectacular eruption that took place on Saturday night, with ash, steam, and gas eruptions rising like mushrooms over the blue Pacific Ocean. The sonic boom was heard far into Alaska.

In Tonga, a tsunami rushed across the coast and people rushed to high ground.

The eruption disconnected the internet to Tonga and tried to anxiously contact friends and family around the world to determine if they were injured and how much damage they had. Even the government website and other official sources weren’t updated on Sunday afternoon.

This satellite image taken by the Japanese meteorological satellite Himawari-8, operated by the Japan Meteorological Agency and released by the Information and Communication Research Organization (NICT), shows that a submarine volcano erupted in Tonga, a Pacific country, on Saturday, January. I am. The 15th of 2022. (NICT via AP)

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has not yet officially reported any injuries or deaths in Tonga, but officials have warned that they have not yet been in contact with some coastal areas or small islands.

“Communication with Tonga remains very limited, and I know it causes a great deal of anxiety in the Tongan community here,” Ardan said.

She said there was serious damage to boats and shops along the coastline of Tonga. According to Ardan, the capital Nuku’alofa is covered with a thick film of volcanic ash, polluting the water supply and making freshwater essential.

This satellite image taken by the Japanese meteorological satellite Himawari-8, operated by the Japan Meteorological Agency and released by the Information and Communication Research Organization (NICT), shows that a submarine volcano erupted in Tonga, a Pacific country, on Saturday, January. I am. The 15th of 2022. (NICT via AP)

Aid agencies said thick ash and smoke urged authorities to wear masks and drink bottled water.

New Zealand was unable to make a military surveillance flight over Tonga on Sunday, according to Ardan. The ash cloud was 63,000 feet (19,000 meters) high, but wanted to send a flight on Monday, followed by a supply plane and a naval vessel.

One of the factors complicating international aid efforts is that Tonga has so far been able to avoid the outbreak of COVID-19. Ardan said all New Zealand military staff are fully vaccinated and willing to follow the protocol established by Tonga.

Dave Snyder, tsunami warning coordinator at the National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska, said it was extremely rare for a volcanic eruption to affect the entire basin, and the scene was “humility and horrifying.”

The tsunami caused damage to boats to New Zealand and Santa Cruz, California, but no widespread damage was seen. Snyder said he expects the tsunami situation in the United States and elsewhere to continue to improve.

Tsunami recommendations have been previously issued to Japan, Hawaii, Alaska, and the Pacific coast of the United States. The US Geological Survey has estimated that the eruption caused the equivalent of a magnitude 5.8 earthquake. Scientists have said that tsunamis caused by volcanoes rather than earthquakes are relatively rare.

According to the Tonga Meteorological Service, tsunami warnings have been issued in all islands, and data from the Pacific Tsunami Center have detected waves of 80 centimeters (2.7 feet).

Rachel Affair Kitaumoepo, chair of the New Zealand Tonga Business Council, is worried about the people living on the island closest to the volcano, but the relatively low levels of the tsunami make it safe for most people. He said he hopes to be. She said she had not yet been in contact with her friends and family in Tonga.

“I hope the damage was only on the infrastructure and people were able to reach higher lands,” she said.

“We are deeply concerned about the people of Tonga recovering from the eruption of the volcano and the aftermath of the tsunami. The United States is ready to provide assistance to its neighbors in the Pacific,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Twitter.

Tonga uses the internet from Suva, Fiji via a submarine cable. All internet connections to Tonga were lost around 6:40 pm local time, said Doug Madley, director of internet analysis at network intelligence company Kentic.

In Tonga, which is home to about 105,000 people, a video posted on social media showed a large wave drifting along the coast and swirling around buildings such as homes and churches. A Twitter user identified as Dr. Faka’iloatonga Taumoefolau posted a video showing how the waves land.

“You can literally hear the eruption of a volcano and it sounds pretty violent,” he wrote, adding in a later post: “Rainy ashes and tiny pebbles, darkness covers the sky.”

The explosion at Hunga Tonga Hunga Haapai Volcano was the latest in a series of dramatic eruptions.

Earth Imaging Company Planet Lab PBC has recently been monitoring the island after the eruption of a new volcanic crater began in late December.

Satellite images taken by the company show how the volcano has shaped the area dramatically, creating an island that grows off the coast of Tonga.

A few days before the latest activity, Planet Labs said, “The surface area of ​​the island seems to have increased by nearly 45% due to rainfall.”

Following the eruption on Saturday, residents of Hawaii, Alaska, and the Pacific coast of the United States were advised to move from the coastline to higher ground and pay attention to instructions from local emergency management authorities, Snyder said. rice field.

“We don’t issue recommendations for coastlines of this length as we have done so far. I don’t know when the last time was, but it’s not really a daily experience,” Snyder said.

Savannah Peterson was shocked to see the water rise a few feet in minutes in front of her oceanfront home in Pacifica, California, just south of San Francisco.

“It happened so fast, and after a few minutes it fell again. It was hard to see it happening so quickly,” she said. “The water never reached the front door, but it arrived today.”

Police rescued a surfer whose surfboard broke off the coast of San Francisco in a powerful wave.

Further south of Santa Cruz, California, authorities were investigating the damage as a surge of boats was damaged, lowland roads and parking lots were flooded, and cars were floating.

In Southern California, soaring water sank at least one boat at Ventura Harbor, northwest of Los Angeles.

Weatherwatch, a New Zealand private forecaster, tweeted that people up to Southland, New Zealand’s southernmost region, reported hearing the sonic boom from the eruption. Others reported that many boats were damaged by the tsunami that hit the Marina in Wangalei, Northland.

Earlier, Matangitonga news sites reported that scientists observed large-scale explosions, lightning, and lightning near the volcano after the volcano began to erupt early on Friday. Satellite images show that a 5 km (3 mile) wide plume has risen into the air to about 20 km (12 miles).

Hunga Tonga Hunga Haapai Volcano is about 64 km (40 miles) north of Nuku’alofa. From late 2014 to early 2015, a series of eruptions in the region created a small new island that interrupted international air travel to the Pacific Islands for several days.

According to Hans Schweiger, a research geophysicist at the Alaska Volcano Observatory, there is no big difference between submarine volcanoes and terrestrial volcanoes, which grow larger as they erupt and usually break the surface at some point. ..

However, in the case of submarine volcanoes, water hitting lava can increase the explosiveness of the eruption, Schweiger added.

Before the explosion, small local earthquakes were generally volcanic, according to Schweiger, but depending on the distance from the land, they may not be felt by the inhabitants along the coastline.

In 2019, Tonga lost internet access for nearly two weeks when the fiber optic cable was cut. The director of a local cable company said at the time that a large vessel could have dragged an anchor and cut the cable. People couldn’t even make international calls until limited satellite access was restored.

Bevelka of the Southern Crossover Cable said there was a limited satellite connection between Tonga and the rest of the world, but didn’t know if it could be affected by a power outage.

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Associated Press Writer, Jennifer McDermott in Providence, Rhode Island, Martha Mendoza in Santa Cruz, California, Frank Bajak in Boston, Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo, Phili Sagaportere in Pago Pago, John Gambrel in Dubai, Christopher Weber of the Associated Press contributed to this report in Los Angeles.

https://www.kuwaittimes.com/tsunami-threat-recedes-from-huge-pacific-volcanic-eruption/ Tsunami threat recedes from a huge Pacific volcanic eruption

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