The tsunami threat around the Pacific from a huge undersea volcanic eruption began to recede on January 15th, while the extent of damage to Tonga remained unclear.
Tonga’s Ministry of Information and Communications said that there were no reports of casualties so far but it was still trying to confirm details.
Images taken from the satellite clearly visualize the spectacular eruption that took place on the evening of January 15th.
Tsunami waves have battered the island nation since an undersea volcano erupted in the South Pacific on Saturday evening, as per the reports by GIN.
The ministry said waves had been recorded at up to 3 feet above normal sea level and warned people to stay away from low-lying areas.
“Communication with Tonga is still very limited. And I know that causes tremendous anxiety in the Tongan community here,” Ardern said.
The eruption brought down the internet and business in Tonga, leaving anxious friends and family from around the world trying to get in touch to determine if there were injuries and the extent of the damage.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said there were no official reports of injuries or deaths in Tonga, but warned authorities had yet to contact some coastal areas and islets.
Tonga’s government has asked for international help, but the full extent of damage and injuries will remain unclear until communications are restored.
Some Tongans have been posting updates on social media about the cyclone, which arrived with winds of up to 160 kilometers per hour (100 mph) that left buildings damaged and power lines knocked out.
The New Zealand Army is still waiting for a response from Tonga before deciding whether to send a team of eight search and rescue experts. The team was on standby in New Caledonia.
A complicating factor for any international aid effort is that Tonga has managed to avoid any COVID19 outbreaks so far. Ardern said New Zealand service members are fully vaccinated and ready to follow all protocols established by Tonga.
Tsunami warning coordinator Dave Snider announced for the National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska, that it was very unusual for a volcanic eruption to affect an entire ocean basin, and the sight was just “humiliating and terrifying”.
Ships were damaged by the tsunami as far away as New Zealand and Santa Cruz, California, but did not appear to cause widespread damage. Snider also said that he expects the tsunami situation in the United States and in other regions to continue to improve.
Tsunami warnings have already been issued for Japan, Hawaii, Alaska, and the Pacific coast of the United States. The Geological Survey of the US estimated the eruption caused the equivalent of a 5.8 magnitude earthquake. Tsunamis caused by volcanoes, not earthquakes, are relatively rare, scientists say.
Photo by Matt Paul Catalano