A volcanic eruption has destroyed the two Tongan islands of Hunga Tonga and Hunga Ha’Apa after throwing ash 30km high.
It was under a thick fog, very high in the sky, that the inhabitants of the Tonga archipelago woke up on Friday January 14th. While since the beginning of the year the volcano of the Hunga Tonga and Hunga Ha’Apai islands has been closely scrutinized by scientists, now the latter has returned, without warning, to erupt.
Although very impressive, probably the most violent of the last 20 years, this eruption did not cause enormous damage and no life was lost in this natural disaster. In the heart of the Pacific, more than 16,000 kilometers from France, this whim of Mother Nature has nevertheless left its mark.
A volcanic archipelago
Known by lovers of the oval balloon, the Tonga archipelago was formed with successive volcanic eruptions, and many uninhabited islands still have some activity. This is particularly the case of the islands Hunga Tonga and Hunga Ha’Apa, which are separated by an arm of the sea. Below the surface, just a few meters away, is the mouth of a volcano. The latter had already erupted in 2015, releasing a large cloud of ash around the two islands.
But on January 14, it was an eruption of a completely different power that affected the archipelago. Since this volcano is located under water, the latter projects impressive pieces of solid magma, which fall quickly, as well as a thick cloud of water vapor and ash.
An eruption of unprecedented violence
According to scientists, the eruption took place in three phases. A first on the 14th in the early morning (local time) followed by a lighter second during the day, and finally an eruption without common measure on the 15th in the morning. The latter was so violent that the detonation managed to circumnavigate the Earth, which was measured in Alaska before being heard in France by several seismic stations in France.
The eruption lifted ash up to 30 kilometers high, turning the Tonga Islands from night to broad daylight. In addition to the ash plume released by the eruption, the volcano also caused a tsunami. If no casualties are currently to be deplored, the waves have affected the entire Pacific. Neighboring Fiji had to evacuate, and even the Japanese coasts were badly affected.
Regarding the Tongan archipelago, the neighboring authorities of New Zealand announced that the internet had stopped working in the country and that it would take almost two weeks to return to normal digital life.
An eruption that intrigues
Authorities now believe the worst is behind us, even as the US west coast and Peruvian shores begin to feel the effects of this impressive eruption. At the heart of the eruption, satellite images taken the following day showed that the two islands of Hunga Tonga and Hunga Ha’Apa had all but disappeared. An astonishing discovery for scientists who will look more closely at the subject in the coming months.