Tsunami warning in effect for US as waves hit Tonga after volcanic eruption

A tsunami alert has been issued for the Tonga Islands. Tsunami warnings have also been issued for the North Island of New Zealand and the west coast of the United States from California to Alaska, as well as Canada’s British Columbia.

Satellite images show a massive ash cloud and shock waves scattering from the eruption.

Waves crossed the coastline of Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, on Saturday, flooding coastal roads and flooded properties, according to CNN affiliate Radio New Zealand (RNZ).

King Tupou VI of Tonga was evacuated from the Royal Palace after the tsunami flooded the capital, RNZ reports, following local media reports that a convoy of police and troops rushed the monarch to a villa in Mata Ki Eua.

Residents went to higher ground, RNZ said, as waves swept across the palace grounds, waterfront and main street.

A tsunami has hit Tonga's largest island, Tongatapu.

As it fell Saturday night in the air in Nuku’alofa and phone connections were down, RNZ said.

The Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano erupted for the first time Friday, sending a plume of ash 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) into the air, according to RNZ.

A second eruption struck on Saturday at 5.26pm local time, RNZ reported.

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said it recorded a 1.2-meter (about 4 feet) tsunami wave near Nuku’alofa at 5.30pm local time on Saturday.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said tsunami waves of 2.7 feet (83 cm) were observed by meters at Nuku’alofa and 2-foot waves at Pago Pago, the capital of American Samoa, Reuters reported.

Jese Tuisinu, a Fiji One television reporter, placed a video on Twitter showing large waves washing ashore, with people trying to escape the incoming water in their cars. “It’s literally dark in parts of Tonga and people rushed to safety after the eruption,” he said in another tweet.

The volcano is located about 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) southeast of Tonga’s Fonuafo’ou Island, according to RNZ, and about 65 kilometers (40 miles) north of Nuku’alofa.

In addition to the warning for tsunamis, Tonga’s Meteorological Services have issued advice for heavy rain, flash floods and strong winds in land and coastal waters.

The nearby island of Fiji has also issued a public opinion urging people living in low-lying coastal areas to “go to safety in anticipation of strong currents and dangerous waves.”

A tsunami alert is also in effect for the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, according to its National Disaster Management Office, with residents advised to move away from the shoreline and seek higher ground.

A tsunami watch is in operation for all Samoan low-lying coastal areas, the Samoa Meteorological Service said. “All people living in low-lying coastal areas are advised to stay away from beach areas,” the agency said, and the public should refrain from visiting coastal areas.

Warning for US

A tsunami alert is now being put in place for the U.S. west coast including the states of California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska, according to the NWS National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska.

Dave Snider, Tsunami Warning Coordinator at the National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska, told CNN, “We’ve seen the wave move through Hawaiian Island.”

Current observations are that the wave is one to two feet high in the direction of the American mainland Pacific Coast. The estimated time of arrival along the coast of California is 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time.

Snider spoke by telephone, “We do not have a really good forecast, because this event is based on a volcano instead of an earthquake.”

Snider notes that this is currently an advice and not a tsunami warning for the U.S. west coast following the Tonga eruption.

A tsunami alert has also been issued for coastal areas off the north and east coasts of the North Island of New Zealand and the Chatham Islands, where “strong and unusual currents and unpredictable currents along the coast” are expected, according to the National Emergency Management Agency of New Zealand.

New Zealand’s official weather service said its weather stations across the country had seen “a pressure rise” from the eruption on Saturday night.

A satellite image taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite, and released by the Bureau, shows an underwater volcanic eruption near the Pacific nation of Tonga on Saturday, January 15, 2022.

Scientist Emily Lane, of the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research of New Zealand, told the New Zealand Science Media Center that it was a “very important” eruption.

“The shock wave of it is clearly visible in satellite images and there are reports of the eruption being heard at least as far away as New Zealand,” she said. “The eruption’s tsunami has reached more than 2,500 km, and is being measured across Aotearoa.”

Volcanoes-induced tsunamis are far less common than flood-related tsunamis, Lane said.

A smaller eruption in late 2014 / early 2015 eroded the volcano’s crater above the surface of the water, Lane added, but it is not yet clear exactly how Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai erupted on this occasion. . “Once we see what’s left of the island after this eruption is over, we can begin to collect the pieces of what happened,” she said.

Professor Shane Cronin, from the School of Environment at the University of Auckland, told the New Zealand Science Media Center that research into historic eruptions by the same volcano suggested that the current episode of the eruption could take weeks or months “and that further eruptions of similar magnitude after the January 15, 2022 event are possible. “

“The eruption is likely to result in a significant ash fall (cm to ten cm) in Tongatapu as well as in the Ha’apai Islands group,” he said. “Help will be needed to restore drinking water supplies. Tonga people must also be vigilant in the short term for further eruptions and especially tsunamis and should avoid low-lying areas.”

An earlier tsunami warning issued for American Samoa has since been canceled, according to the NWS Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

There is no tsunami threat to Guam and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands from a “distant eruption,” according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

The volcano was active from December 20, but was declared dormant on January 11, according to RNZ.

CNN’s Haley Brink contributed to this report.

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