Hawaii, Alaska, US West Coast now under tsunami warning after Tonga volcanic eruption

The underwater eruption from the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haʻapai volcano occurred 40 miles south of Tonga’s main island of Tongatapu, triggering a tsunami that has hit Tonga and prompted several other countries, including the US, to issue tsunami warnings.

The sound of the volcano was so loud that it could be heard 500 miles away.

“Loud thunder sounds” were heard as far as Fiji, another Pacific island nation located more than 500 miles away from the eruption site, officials said.

In New Zealand, a local weather forecast service, Weather Watch, reported that some residents also heard the sounds of a “simply astonishing” explosion, even though New Zealand is more than 1,400 miles away from Tonga.  

The eruption was so massive that it was clearly visible on images taken by several satellites orbiting Earth, including the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) GOES-West. 

Footage on social media shows a giant gray explosion of smoke rising above the ocean and into the sky. The plumes of smoke, gas and ash reached an altitude of 12 miles, according to the Tonga Geological Services. The ash cloud was also reportedly almost 440 miles wide, according to some reports. 

Ash fell in the Tongan capital of Nuku’alofa, according to some witnesses – and the sound of the eruption was reportedly heard across the Southern Pacific.

There have been no reports yet about casualties or property damage. 

Tonga, Fiji and Vanuatu have all issued tsunami alerts.

A tsunami warning has also been issued for the US west coast, including states of California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii and Alaska, the National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska, said.

New Zealand’s National Emergency Management Agency said those on the north and east coast of the North Island could see “unpredictable surges at the shore.” Authorities in Australia’s state of New South Wales told people to “get out of the water and move away from the immediate water’s edge.”

Today’s eruption was one of the largest in decades, according to some assessments. It was the second in a series of eruptions, with another one recorded on Friday. 

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