The eruption was so powerful that it caused a widespread tsunami throughout the Pacific, and left two dead in Peru.
The island where the submarine volcano Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai erupted on January 15 causing a gigantic fungus of steam and ash, has almost completely disappeared after the explosion, as can be seen in the images captured by the satellites of the Observation Program of the Land of the European Union.
As can be seen in the images, hours after the eruption, the archipelago has been submerged almost entirely under water and only two small parts of the island can be seen on the surface. It is feared that more peripheral islands may have disappeared after the eruption, one of the strongest in 30 years.
The authorities have not confirmed any deaths so far, but communications are paralyzed, so many Tongans abroad are still waiting to contact family and friends after two days without being able to contact.
The volcano, located in the “Ring of Fire” of the Pacific Ocean, an area where the meeting of tectonic plates causes high seismic activity, the Hunga Tonga -Hunga Ha’apai volcano measures about 20 km in diameter and 1,800 meters in height, and is It is almost completely submerged. It is at the bottom of the ocean, but its main crater is at water level.
In late December, the volcano erupted underwater, causing “increasingly powerful explosions linked to the interaction between magma and seawater”, explained to AFP Raphal Grandin, of the Paris Institute of Globe Physics (IPGP).
The largest occurred on Saturday, forming a column of 30 km high that reached the stratosphere. It quickly became a “volcanic umbrella” several hundred kilometers in diameter over the region, part of which was buried under the ashes, specifies the New Zealand seismic agency.
The eruption was so powerful that it caused a widespread tsunami, inundating the coasts of the United States as far as Chile and Japan, and killing two people in Peru.
The shock wave was such that the explosion was heard as far as Alaska, more than 9,000 km away. “It is exceptional. As far as I know, the last audible explosion at this distance dates back to that of the Krakatoa volcano in Indonesia in 1883, which killed 36,000 people,” says Raphal Grandin.
“The volcano is likely to erupt again in the next few days,” said Professor Oliver Nebel, from the School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment at Monash University, Australia.
Affected populations must remain vigilant and take precautions before the ash dissipates.
Tonga is made up of 170 islands spread in about 700,000 square kilometers. Some 100,000 people live in Tonga, most of them on the island of Tongatapu.
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