A massive eruption in Tonga that triggered tsunami waves around the Pacific caused “significant” damage to the island nation’s capital and smothered it in dust, but the full extent was not apparent with communications still cut off on Sunday.
The eruption on Saturday was so powerful that it was recorded around the world, triggering a tsunami that flooded Pacific coastlines from Japan to the United States.
The capital Nuku’alofa suffered “significant” damage, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, adding that there had been no reports of injury or death, but a full assessment was not yet possible with communication lines down.
“The tsunami has had a significant impact on the foreshore on the northern side of Nuku’alofa with boats and large boulders washed ashore,” Ardern said after contact with the New Zealand embassy in Tonga.
“Nuku’alofa is covered in a thick film of volcanic dust otherwise conditions are calm and stale.”
Tonga needed water supplies, she said: “The ash cloud has caused contamination.”
There has been no word on damage in the outer islands and New Zealand will send an air force reconnaissance aircraft” as soon as atmospheric conditions allow’, the country’s Defence Force tweeted.
“We are working hard to see how we can assist our Pacific neighbors after the volcanic eruption near Tonga.”
Tonga has also accepted Canberra’s offer to send a surveillance fight, Australia’s foreign office said, adding it is also immediately prepared to supply “critical humanitarian supplies”.
The United States was “deeply concerned for the people of Tonga”, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, Pledging support for the island nation.
“It was massive, the ground shook, our house was shaking. It came in waves. My younger brother thought bombs were exploding nearby.” Resident Mere Taufa told the Stuff news website Saturday.
She said water filled their home minutes later and she watched the wall of the neighboring house collapse.
“We just knew straight away it was a tsunami. Just water gushing into our home,” Taufa said.
“You could just hear screams everywhere, people screaming for safety, for everyone to get to higher ground.”
The eruption triggered tsunamis across the Pacific with waves of 1.74 meters (five and a half feet) measured in Chanaral, Chile more than 10,000 Kilometers away, and smaller waves seen along the pacific coast from Alaska to Mexico.
In California, the city of Santa Cruz was hot by flooding due to a tidal surge generated by the tsunami, video retweeted by the US National Weather Service Showed.
Peru closed 22 ports as a precaution while waves of around 1.2 meters (four feet) hit along Japan’s Pacific Coast.
By 0300 GMT on Sunday, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii said the threat from the eruption had passed.