The underwater eruption from the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haʻapai volcano occurred 40 miles south of Tonga’s main island of Tongatapu, triggering a tsunami that has hit Tonga and prompted several other countries, including the US, to issue tsunami advisories.
The sound of the volcano was so loud that it could be heard 500 miles away.
“Loud thunder sounds” were heard as far as Fiji, another Pacific island nation located more than 500 miles away from the eruption site, officials said.
In New Zealand, a local weather forecast service, Weather Watch, reported that some residents also heard the sounds of a “simply astonishing” explosion, even though New Zealand is more than 1,400 miles away from Tonga.
The eruption was so massive that it was clearly visible on images taken by several satellites orbiting Earth, including the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) GOES-West.
Footage on social media shows a giant gray explosion of smoke rising above the ocean and into the sky. The plumes of smoke, gas, and ash reached an altitude of 12 miles, according to the Tonga Geological Services. The ash cloud was also reportedly almost 440 miles wide, according to some reports.
Ash fell in the Tongan capital of Nuku’alofa, according to some witnesses – and the sound of the eruption was reportedly heard across the Southern Pacific.
There have been no reports yet about casualties or property damage.
Tonga, Fiji, and Vanuatu have all issued tsunami alerts.
As of 7.06 HST/ 9.06 PST, the advisory for Hawaii remains, but Hawaii Civil Defence officials said the tsunami waves across the state “are now diminishing” but they remain a hazard at the advisory level. No damages were recorded so far.
Many beaches and harbors in California were closed this morning as small tsunami waves started to develop.
Tsunami Advisory in Effect for; * CALIFORNIA, The coast from The Cal./Mexico Border to The Oregon/Cal. Border including San Francisco Bay * OREGON, The coast from The Oregon/Cal. Border to The Oregon/Wash. Border including the Columbia River estuary coast * WASHINGTON, Outer coast from the Oregon/Washington border to Slip Point, Columbia River estuary coast, and the Juan de Fuca Strait coast * BRITISH COLUMBIA, The north coast and Haida Gwaii, the central coast and northeast Vancouver Island, the outer west coast of Vancouver Island, the Juan de Fuca Strait coast * SOUTHEAST ALASKA, The inner and outer coast from The BC/Alaska Border to Cape Fairweather, Alaska (80 miles SE of Yakutat) * SOUTH ALASKA AND THE ALASKA PENINSULA, Pacific coasts from Cape Fairweather, Alaska (80 miles SE of Yakutat) to Unimak Pass, Alaska (80 miles NE of Unalaska) * ALEUTIAN ISLANDS, Unimak Pass, Alaska (80 miles NE of Unalaska) to Attu, Alaska including the Pribilof Islands
New Zealand’s National Emergency Management Agency said those on the north and east coast of the North Island could see “unpredictable surges at the shore.” Authorities in Australia’s state of New South Wales told people to “get out of the water and move away from the immediate water’s edge.”
Today’s eruption was one of the largest in decades, according to some assessments. It was the second in a series of eruptions, with another one recorded on Friday.