WELLINGTON, New Zealand ( Associated Press) – An underwater volcano erupted on Saturday near the Pacific nation of Tonga, causing huge tsunami waves to crash into the coast and people fled to higher ground. Tsunami advisories were in effect for Hawaii, Alaska and the US Pacific Coast, with reports of waves pushing boats upward in Hawaii.
Doug Madori, director of internet analysis for the network intelligence firm, said there were no immediate reports of injury or damage with Tonga having lost all internet connectivity at 6:40 p.m. local time – about 10 minutes after the problems began. . Kentick.
Tonga gets its internet from Suva, Fiji via an undersea cable that was probably damaged. Southern Cross Cable Networks, the company that manages that connection, could not immediately be reached for comment.
In Hawaii, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center reported hitting waves ranging from half a meter (1.6 ft) to 80 centimeters (2.7 ft) in Nawaliwili, Kauai in Hanalei. “We are relieved that there was no damage and only minor flooding throughout the islands,” the center said, describing the situation in Hawaii.
On Tonga, home to some 105,000 people, videos posted on social media showed large waves rolling around homes and buildings, including a church, in coastal areas. Satellite images show a massive explosion, a plume of ash, steam and gas rising like a mushroom over blue Pacific waters.
The New Zealand military said it was monitoring the situation and was on standby, ready to assist if asked.
Tonga Meteorological Services said a tsunami warning had been declared for all of the archipelago, and data from the Pacific Tsunami Center showed waves of up to 80 centimeters (2.7 ft) were detected.
Hunga Tonga The eruption of the Hunga Haapai volcano was the latest in a series of spectacular eruptions.
A Twitter user identified as Dr. Fakaylotonga Toumoflau posted a video showing the waves crashing on the shore.
“Can actually hear the volcanic eruption, sounds very violent,” he wrote in a later post: “Rain ash and small pebbles, the sky is dark.”
Dave Snyder, tsunami warning coordinator for the National Tsunami Warning Center, said in Hawaii, Alaska and along the US Pacific Coast, residents were told to move to higher ground away from the coast and heed specific instructions from their local emergency management officials. . Palmer, Alaska.
The first waves to hit the continental United States were in Nikolsky, Atka and Adak, Alaska, measuring about 30 centimeters (1 foot). The US National Tsunami Warning Center said in a tweet that the wave was about 20 centimeters (.7 ft) in Monterey, California.
The National Weather Service said there were reports of boats being pushed up by waves in Hawaii. Sea level fluctuations were also beginning in Alaska and California, according to the National Tsunami Warning Center.
Beaches and ferries in Southern California were closed as a precaution, but the National Weather Service tweeted, “There were no significant concerns about waterlogging.” However, strong currents were possible, and officials warned people to stay out of the water.
Crowds gathered at the port of Santa Cruz early Saturday to watch the water slowly rise up and down, straining the boat’s connection to the docks. There was no apparent immediate damage. In 2011, after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, a series of surges caused $20 million in damage to the port.
“We don’t issue an advisory for this length of beach like we’ve done — I’m not sure when the last was — but it’s not really an everyday experience,” Snyder said. “I hope it adds importance and seriousness to our citizens.”
He said the waves already hitting Hawaii were under the criteria for a more severe tsunami warning.
“The important thing here is that the first wave may not be the biggest. We could watch the game for several hours,” he said. “It seems that everything will remain below the warning level, but it is difficult to predict Because it is a volcanic eruption and we are prepared to measure earthquakes or seismic sea waves.”
Residents of American Samoa were alerted by local broadcasters to tsunami warnings as well as church bells throughout the region. An external siren warning system was out of service. People living along the shoreline quickly moved to higher places.
As night went on, there were no reports of any damage and the Tsunami Center in Hawaii canceled the alert.
Officials in the nearby island nations of Fiji and Samoa also issued warnings, asking people to avoid shorelines due to strong currents and dangerous waves. The Japan Meteorological Agency said there could be slight swelling in the waters along the coast, but no damage was expected.
The island trade news site of Tonga reported that a convoy of police and military soldiers escorted King Taupo VI from his palace near the shore. He was among the many residents who headed to the higher ground.
Earlier, the Matangi Tonga news site reported that scientists saw massive eruptions, thunder and lightning after the volcano erupted early on Friday. The satellite image shows a 5-kilometre (3 mi) wide plume rising about 20 kilometers (12 mi) into the air.
More than 2,300 kilometers (1,400 mi) away in New Zealand, officials were warning of a storm surge from the eruption.
The National Emergency Management Agency said parts of New Zealand can expect “strong and unusual currents and unexpected surges along the coast following a large volcanic eruption”.
New Zealand’s private forecaster Weather Watch tweeted that people as far away as Southland, the country’s southernmost region, reported the sound of a sonic boom from the explosion. Others reported that several boats were damaged by the tsunami that struck a marina in Whangarei in the Northland region.
The volcano is located approximately 64 kilometers (40 mi) north of the capital Nuku’alofa. In late 2014 and early 2015, a series of eruptions in the area created a small new island and disrupted international air travel to the Pacific Islands for several days.
There is no significant difference between underwater and on land volcanoes, and underwater volcanoes get bigger as they erupt, usually breaking the surface, said Hans Schweiger, a research geophysicist at the Alaska Volcano Observatory.
With underwater volcanoes, however, water can add to the explosiveness of the eruption as it collides with lava, Schweiger said.
Before an eruption, there is usually an increase in small local earthquakes at the volcano, but that may not be felt by residents along the shoreline, depending on how far it is from the ground, Schweiger said.
In 2019, Tonga lost Internet access for nearly two weeks when the same fiber-optic cable was cut. The director of the local cable company said at that time that a large ship might have pulled anchor and cut the cable. Until limited satellite access was restored, people could not even make international calls.
Associated Press writers Jennifer McDermott in Providence, Rhode Island, Frank Bajak in Boston, Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo and Philly Sagapolutele in Pago Pago, American Samoa, contributed to this report.