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Volcano erupts near Tonga

Geologists observe the eruption of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai, 40 miles north of Tongatapu, on January 15, 2022. (Photo: Tonga Geological Services/Facebook)

Tsunami Triggered by Huge Volcanic Eruption Hits Tonga

The undersea volcano's eruption also sparked tsunami warnings for Fiji, Samoa, New Zealand, and the West Coast of the United States.

Common Dreams staff

This is a developing news story... Check back for possible updates...

A major volcanic eruption near Tonga triggered tsunami waves that hit the shores of the Pacific island nation on Saturday, forcing people to flee the streets and their homes in search of higher ground.

The extent of the damage and whether there have been any injuries or deaths remains uncertain. According to the Associated Press, "communications with the small nation remained cut off hours after the eruption" of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai, which is located roughly 40 miles north of Tonga's main island.

The Tonga Geological Services said in a Facebook post that the volcanic eruption sent "plumes up to 20 km above sea level."

"It came in waves, my younger brother thought bombs were exploding nearby," one Tonga resident said of the eruption.

Video footage and images posted to social media showed significant flooding following the volcanic explosion:

Satellite footage, meanwhile, offered a view of the massive eruption from outer space:

As the New York Times reported Saturday, "Other recent infrared satellite imagery suggested that the underwater volcano was still erupting, and despite Tonga's geographical isolation, a booming sound was heard after the initial eruption as far as New Zealand (which is 1,100 miles northeast of Tongatapu)."

In addition to the potentially destructive impact on Tonga, the volcanic eruption sparked tsunami warnings for Fiji, Samoa, New Zealand, and the West Coast of the United States.

"West Coast residents be prepared for impacts in bays and harbors," the U.S. National Tsunami Warning Center wrote in a Twitter post Saturday morning. "Live-aboards seek shelter and high ground. Follow local instructions."

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