Tonga: Satellite images capture moment volcano erupts
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Tsunami warnings are in force across the entire Pacific island of Tonga as well as Fiji following a devastating volcanic shockwave. Terrifying satellite footage shows the moment the underwater Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupted, sparking a tsunami alert. Local residents posted videos of large waves washing ashore in coastal areas as officials urged immediate evacuation.
@US_Stormwatch tweeted footage of the satellite explosion: “Tonga’s Hunga Tonga volcano just had one of the most violent volcano eruptions ever captured on satellite.”
The intense eight-minute eruption was so violent it could be heard as “loud thunder sounds” in Fiji, more than 800km (500 miles) away, according to officials in the capital Suva.
People in New Zealand reported hearing “sonic booms” at the time of the eruption.
Commenting on the footage, Jared Silverman tweeted: “As a meteorologist, I’ve seen many things on satellite. None as frightening as this Tonga volcanic eruption!”
Witnesses in Tonga said ash is falling over the capital, Nuku’alofa.
One Tonga resident Dr Faka’iloatonga Taumoefolau tweeted images of ash-covered windows, adding: “Raining ash and tiny pebbles, darkness blanketing the sky.”
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Another person @IliesaWT tweeted: “The island is grey, as ash has covered the whole island.”
Other footage showed the sky “turn pitch-black” as ash fell across the island.
Residents of the Pacific island have been urged to move to higher ground.
Amidst the rush to safety, a convoy of police and military troops evacuated Tonga’s King Tupou VI from his palace near the shore.
Tsunami waves measuring two feet in height were observed by sea-level gauges at the capital of the US territory of American Samoa following volcanic activity in Tonga, according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre.
One Tongan resident, Mere Taufa, told New Zealand news site Stuff.co.nz that her younger brother thoughts bombs were exploding nearby when the eruption took place.
She said: “My first instinct was to take cover under the table, I grabbed my little sister, and screamed at my parents and others in the house to do the same.
“You could just hear screams everywhere, people screaming for safety, for everyone to get to higher ground.”
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Plumes of gas, smoke and ash pouring from the volcano reached 20km (12 miles) into the sky, according to the Tonga Geological Services.
One official in American Samoa posted a video urging evacuation, telling residents: “We have a tsunami warning at this time. Please evacuate to higher ground immediately”.
New Zealand’s national emergency management agency warned residents to expect “strong and unusual currents and unpredictable surges” to hit the north and east coast of the North Island and the Chatham Islands.
Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology tweeted that 1.2 metre tsunami wave has been observed at Nukualofa.
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New Zealand weather forecasting company Weather Watch posted on Twitter: “The energy release is simply astonishing.
“Tonga is around 2,000km away from New Zealand. Reports of people hearing the sonic booms across New Zealand.”
The eruption at the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano on Saturday was the latest in a series of smaller eruptions at the site.
Scientists had observed massive explosions, thunder and lightning near the volcano after it started erupting Friday.
The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano lies about 65km north of the Tongan capital.
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