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Tongan geologists aboard a ship watch the eruption of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano in Tonga.

Battered Tonga at the centre of Pacific tsunami alert

TOKYO (China Daily/ANN) -- The tsunami threat around Pacific countries was abating on Sunday but the extent of damage remained unknown in Tonga, where a huge underwater volcano erupted the previous day and triggered tsunamis that flooded Pacific coastlines from Japan to the United States, prompting hundreds of thousands of people to evacuate.
The capital of Tonga, Nuku’alofa suffered “significant” damage, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Sunday, adding there had been no reports of injury or death but that a full assessment was not yet possible with communication lines down.
Ardern cited a damaged undersea cable as one reason for difficulties in communicating with Tonga. “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 communicating with the New Zealand embassy in Tonga.
“Nuku’alofa is covered in a thick film of volcanic dust but otherwise conditions are calm and stable.”
The volcano, about 65 kilometres north of Nuku’alofa, erupted on Saturday afternoon. Tonga Geological Services said plumes reached more than 19.3 kilometres above sea level, with satellite images showing the huge plume of ash, steam and gas the eruption caused.
As a result, tsunami warnings were in force for all Pacific countries after the eruption. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii said tsunamis of up to about 80 centimetres high were observed in Tonga.
High waves triggered
The eruption triggered tsunamis reached about 1.4 metres in Vanuatu, about 3 metres in Japan, over one-metre high in Alaska and California and even 80 centimetres high on the coast of Peru, about 10,000 kilometres from Tonga.
Footage from local TV showed seawater gushing into a coastal town in Peru, where the water rose above knee level, and some people were clinging to pillars to stop themselves from being swept away.

(Latest Update January 18, 2022)

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