The violent eruption of an underwater volcano near Tonga, in the South Pacific, triggered a tsunami that furiously hit the coasts of this small nation and set off alarms in other countries in the region, including the west coast of the United States, which is expecting waves of more than 1.5 meters in height in the next few hours.
The U.S. National Weather Service (NWS) issued tsunami warnings along the West Coast after the underwater volcanic eruption was recorded on Friday night, January 14, Fox News reported.
In Hawaii, Alaska,, and the U.S. Pacific coast, residents were asked to move away from the coast to higher ground and heed specific instructions from local emergency management officials, said Dave Snider, tsunami warning coordinator for the National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska.
Beaches and piers were closed in Southern California as a precautionary measure, although the local Weather Service said there were no significant flooding concerns.
The first to report the catastrophic event was the weather service of the island Kingdom of Tonga, warning of a tsunami that could reach hundreds of kilometers due to the massive volcanic eruption, which could even be seen from satellite images.
The satellite image clearly shows the explosion caused by the underwater volcano called Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai, located about 65 kilometers north of the Tongan island of Tongatapu, and the subsequent shock wave that resulted in a huge tsunami, as well as a large column of ash and water that rises several kilometers high.
According to records posted on social networks of witnesses, 15 minutes after the explosion the waves hit against homes and buildings settled on the first line of the northern coast of Tongatapu.
The first victims were forced to flee their homes and locations, buildings were quickly inundated as the tsunami waves crashed into the main island of Tonga, without even giving them time to gather their belongings.
Communications and power were reportedly cut off on the main island of Tonga, and the government called in military reserves to assist with disaster response.
No deaths or serious injuries were reported as a result of the tsunami at this time, but local news site Kaniva Tonga reported that the situation was quite chaotic, with long lines of traffic as thousands of people tried to reach higher ground on the main island.
Further eruptions and consequently further tsunamis are not ruled out in the region.