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‘Astonishing’ volcanic eruption seen from space triggers US tsunami warning (VIDEOS) – Reuters


The eruption in the South Pacific was so powerful it could be seen from space

A tsunami triggered by a massive underwater volcanic eruption has hit the Pacific island nation of Tonga and prompted other nations to issue warnings. The sound of the volcano was so loud that it could be heard 800 km away.

The submarine eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano occurred 65 km south of Tonga’s main island, Tongatapu. It was so massive that it was clearly visible in images taken by several Earth-orbiting satellites, including the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) GOES-West. This prompted several other countries, including the United States, to issue tsunami warnings.

Images on social media show a giant explosion of gray smoke rising above the ocean and into the sky. The plumes of smoke, gas and ash reached an altitude of 20 km, according to the Tonga Geological Services. The ash cloud was also nearly 700 km wide, according to some reports.

Ash fell in the Tongan capital of Nuku’alofa, some witnesses said – and the sound of the eruption was heard across the South Pacific.

“Thunder Sounds Loud” were heard as far away as Fiji, another Pacific island nation more than 800 km from the site of the eruption, officials said. In New Zealand, a local weather forecasting service, Weather Watch, reported that some residents also heard the sounds of a “simply amazing” explosion even though New Zealand is more than 2,300 km from Tonga.

Local weather services in New Zealand also recorded “incredibly unusual” atmospheric pressure readings. “The only time you might see this is if a tornado has passed near a weather station,” It said. Tonga, Fiji and Vanuatu all issued tsunami warnings.

A tsunami warning has also been issued for the west coast of the United States, including the states of California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska, the National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska said.

New Zealand’s National Emergency Management Agency said those on the north and east coasts of the North Island could see “unpredictable surges on the shore.” Authorities in the Australian state of New South Wales have told people to “Get out of the water and away from the immediate edge of the water.”

Videos posted on social media showed crashing waves inundating Tonga’s coast and destroying a fence, as well as rushing through some city streets and flooding a local church.

There have been no reports of casualties or property damage yet.

Saturday’s eruption was one of the largest in decades, by some estimates. It was the second in a series of eruptions, with another recorded on Friday.

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