An underwater volcano erupted in the Pacific Ocean on Saturday, January 15, triggering a 7.4-magnitude earthquake. The quake sent tsunami waves crashing into the Pacific island nation of Tonga. The massive volcanic explosion was apparently visible from space and is termed as a phenomenon that only happens 'once in a thousand years.' Not only has the explosion left the island country covered in ash, but all communications are cut off as phone and internet lines are down.
Satellite images showed the massive explosion as visible from space. According to DailyMail, Tonga was largely cut off from the world by Sunday as efforts to reach family and friends present on the Pacific islands failed. No casualty reports are yet to come through.
A professor from the University of Auckland, Shane Cronin stated in The Conversation that the volcanic eruption on Saturday is one of the 'massive explosions the volcano is capable of producing roughly every thousand years.' Prof Cronin is an expert in Tonga explosions. "We could be in for several weeks or even years of major volcanic unrest from the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai volcano," he noted.
Aid and evacuation efforts are underway
As the massive underwater volcanic eruption in Tonga has put the entire Pacific rim on tsunami watch, Australia and New Zealand have launched surveillance flights to assess the damage. Australian outlets reported that efforts of aid and evacuation are underway. Waves of more than four feet were seen on the California coast on Saturday. Not only this, tsunami-effect waves were recorded along the coast in Oregon, Washington, British Columbia in Canada, and Alaska.
Complications due to COVID-19
The kingdom of Tonga has so far avoided any COVID-19 outbreaks, owing to which, the international aid efforts are said to be in a pickle. However, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern assured that New Zealand's military staff were all fully vaccinated and are open to following any protocols established by Tonga regarding the same.
A new island created
Satellite images showed a huge part of a volcanic island near Tonga collapsing into the ocean right before it erupted. The explosion sent dense smoke about 12 miles above sea level into the air and triggered massive tsunamis.
According to reports, the eruption created a new island in Tonga. This is the second time such an event occurred in Tonga in ten years.