Volcanic eruption, earthquake rock Tonga, trigger tsunami threats in the South Pacific

Map locating the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano, which erupted January 14, sending large waves crashing ashore in Tonga

by Alfred Acenas and Arianne Torres (EBC Hawaii-Pacific)


HONOLULU (Eagle News) – A powerful underwater volcanic eruption and 7.6-magnitude earthquake shook the Tonga Islands at 4:26am local time on Saturday, January 15.

A tsunami warning was soon issued for all of Tonga by the island nation’s meteorological services agency.

Local resident Dr. Faka’iloatonga Taumoefolau took to social media to post photographs of the volcano’s violent eruption and waves crashing ashore. He also described the raining of ash and tiny pebbles, as well as “darkness blanketing the sky.”

The U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) issued a tsunami warning for American Samoa at about 7:36pm local time but later canceled it an hour later. The PTWC continues to monitor tsunami activity in the Southwest Pacific region and advises residents to look out for wave fluctuations along the coastline.

Fiji reportedly went on alert for a tsunami threat while New Zealand had advised coastal areas of possible hazardous currents and waves.

No tsunami threat was expected for the Hawaiian Islands, according to the State’s emergency management agency.

Comprising 169 islands, the Kingdom of Tonga is located 5,060 kilometers or 3,144 miles southwest of Hawaii.

The eruption is the latest in a series of spectacular eruptions from the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano.

The volcano sits on an uninhabited island about 65 kilometers (40 miles) north of the Tongan capital Nuku’alofa.

(Eagle News Service)