Tonga Volcano Violently Spews Ash a Day Prior to Tsunami-Causing Eruption

Massive plumes of ash and gas rose from the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano before the colossal eruption that triggered a tsunami on the island of Tonga on Saturday, January 15.

On Friday, January 14, the Tonga Geological Services said a 5km-wide plume of ash, gas, and steam rose 18-20km above sea level during a continuous eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano.

The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupted again on Saturday evening, triggering tsunami alerts across several South Pacific islands, Australia’s east coast, New Zealand, the US and Japan.

According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, a 1.2-metre tsunami wave was observed at Nuku Alofa in Tonga at 5.30 pm local time on Saturday. Data from the bureau suggested the shockwave from the eruption travelled at over 1000 km per hour.

Communication lines were severed during the eruption, according to reports, making it difficult to gauge the damage caused by the eruption and subsequent tsunami. Surveillance aircraft were sent from Australia and New Zealand on January 17 to assess the damage. Credit: Tonga Geological Services via Storyful

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