WORLD

Huge Tonga volcanic eruption caused ‘significant damage’

Waves hit the coast of Suva City in Fiji following the volcanic eruption in Tonga

A massive volcanic eruption in Tonga that triggered tsunami waves around the Pacific caused “significant damage” to the island nation’s capital and smothered it in dust, but the full extent was not apparent with communications still cut off on Sunday.

The eruption on Saturday was so powerful it was recorded around the world, triggering a tsunami that flooded Pacific coastlines from Japan to the United States.

“The tsunami has had a significant impact on the foreshore on the northern side of Nuku’alofa with boats and large boulders washed ashore,” Ardern said after contact with the New Zealand embassy in Tonga.

Tonga was in need of water supplies, she said: “The ash cloud has caused contamination.”

“We’re working hard to see how we can assist our Pacific neighbours after the volcanic eruption near Tonga.”

The United States was “deeply concerned for the people of Tonga”, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, pledging support for the island nation.

The United Nations children’s agency said it was preparing emergency supplies to fly into Tonga in coordination with Australia and New Zealand.

“It was massive, the ground shook, our house was shaking. It came in waves. My younger brother thought bombs were exploding nearby,” resident Mere Taufa told the Stuff news website Saturday.

– ‘People screaming’ –

“You could just hear screams everywhere, people screaming for safety, for everyone to get to higher ground.”

Dramatic satellite images showed the long, rumbling eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano spew smoke and ash in the air, with a thunderous roar heard 10,000 kilometres (6,000 miles) away in Alaska.

In California, the city of Santa Cruz was hit by flooding due to a tidal surge generated by the tsunami, videos retweeted by the US National Weather Service showed.

By 0300 GMT on Sunday, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii said the threat from the eruption had passed.

The US Geological Survey recorded Saturday’s eruption as equivalent to a 5.8-magnitude earthquake at zero depth.

New Zealand scientist Marco Brenna, a senior lecturer at Otago University’s School of Geology, described the impact of the eruption as “relatively mild” but said another eruption with a much bigger impact could not be ruled out.

“A part of the pressure signal in Alaska was in the audible range. The very large signal is not that surprising considering the scale of the eruption, but the audible aspect is fairly unique,” it said, citing Alaska Volcano Observatory scientist David Fee.

The Fife weather station in Scotland tweeted it was “just incredible to think of the power that can send a shockwave around the world” after the eruptions produced a jump in its air pressure graph.

In recent years, it breached sea level during a 2009 eruption while in 2015 it spewed so many large rocks and ash into the air that when they settled a new island had formed two kilometres long by one kilometre wide and 100 metres high.

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