Satellite image of Hung Tonga eruption.
The Pacific island state of Tonga suffered extensive material damage after a strong submarine volcano eruption on Saturday and a subsequent tsunami. The first reports of the extent of the damage to this island kingdom appeared three days after the eruption of the volcano, thanks to satellite telephone contact with Tonga, a reconnaissance flight and satellite images.
The first confirmed victim is British Angela Glover. Her brother reported that the 50-year-old woman had died trying to save her dogs. At least one other person was declared missing by the local authorities.
Australia and New Zealand conducted reconnaissance flights over Tonga on Monday to assess the extent of the damage and prepare humanitarian aid ships.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said they had received an emergency signal on the Tongan island of Mango. The office added that the reconnaissance flights confirmed “significant property damage” on Mang and another island, Fonoi. According to the Tongan government, 36 people live on Mang and 69 on Fonoi.
Images captured by the New Zealand Armed Forces showed “catastrophic damage” to the remote island of Atata. The islands of Fonoifua, Niniva, Nomuka and Mango suffered extensive to catastrophic damage.
The Tongan capital, Nuku’alofa, was covered by two inches of volcanic ash and dust, and electricity supply was cut off in many neighborhoods.
Saturday’s eruption of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai also caused tsunamis in the Pacific Ocean, which flooded the coasts from Japan to the United States and killed two people in Peru.
We know little about submarine volcanoes
The Hunga Tonga eruption is probably the largest volcano eruption in 30 years. The explosion was so strong that they recorded a pressure wave in Slovakia, 17,000 kilometers away.
According to SHMÚ, the first pressure wave after the eruption of the volcano arrived in Slovakia on Saturday evening around 7.15 pm CET and “vibrated” the air pressure values at meteorological stations for more than two hours. Less than seven hours later, the second wave arrived from the opposite side and traveled to us along a longer path.
However, according to climatologist and meteorologist Jozef Pech, we can also expect a third and fourth pressure wave.
“If nothing unexpected happens and the two waves are not absorbed, we should record the third round. Tomorrow morning and afternoon, “Pecho explained, according to which a very similar situation occurred in 1883 after the eruption of the Indonesian volcano Krakatoa.
“At that time, the pressure wave passed through the planet up to five times. In total, they registered 7 to 10 pressure waves. At that time, of course, it was measured with pressure gauges, so this volcano was mediated in this way for the first time, “added the climatologist.
Volcanologist Jaroslav Lexa in turn likened the force of the Hunga Tonga volcano eruption to the eruption of Pinatubo volcano.
“The last volcanic eruption of similar magnitude was the eruption of Pinatubo volcano in the Philippines in 1991. I do not know that there was a similar pressure wave propagation in connection with it and whether we had sensitive instruments at the time to record it. The same is true of previous massive eruptions of Tambora volcanoes in Indonesia in 1815, Krakatoa in Indonesia in 1883 and Novarupta in Alaska in 1912. In connection with more massive explosive eruptions of several volcanoes, the propagation of acoustic waves has been recorded, but at a shorter distance, for example: Pinatubo (1991) or Mount St. Helena (1980), “Lexa explained.
Despite scientific progress, the ocean floor is still the least explored part of the surface of our planet, and the same is true of volcanoes. This is one of the reasons why predicting further eruptions is now an almost impossible task.
“It is almost impossible to predict the eruptions of submarine volcanoes and their magnitude, because we have minimal information about them. We know that they exist and sporadically manifest themselves in eruptions. However, we do not know their history and the nature of the eruptions – the information we have on terrestrial volcanoes. Predicting a tsunami after an earthquake is easier than predicting a tsunami after a volcano eruption. The tsunami generation processes at volcanic volcanoes are more diverse and less familiar, “Lexa explained.
Volcanic submarine volcanoes, the peaks of which are approaching the surface, are, according to vukanologists, the most unpredictable. Therefore, scientists are focusing on these volcanoes and trying to monitor them in detail.
“The number of volcanoes on the seabed is very large and we can identify them by their characteristic shape on bathymetric maps. Only a small part of them are active. We know little about the activity of volcanoes in the deep sea environment, because their activity does not manifest itself on the surface (high pressure prevents the explosive process). However, this does not apply to volcanoes, the peaks of which have approached the surface and, as a result of lower pressure, are also manifested by explosive eruptions, which also manifest above the sea and ocean levels. These are identified and their activity is recorded, “the volcanologist explained.
An ecological accident has occurred on the Peruvian coast
Peruvian authorities closed three oil-polluted beaches on Monday due to a tsunami eruption caused by a volcanic eruption in the Tonga archipelago.
The Pampilla refinery, part of the Spanish company Repsol, admitted that there was an “oil spill” off the coast of Callao and Ventanilla districts near Lima on Saturday, due to strong waves caused by the eruption of a volcano on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.
The oil leak occurred during its unloading from the tank. The Pampilla refinery did not say how much oil had spilled into the sea, and announced that it was working with the authorities to clean up the affected beaches.
In the meantime, the National Emergency Operations Center said in a statement that the situation had been brought under control.
Environment Minister Rubén Ramírez said that oil polluted three kilometers of coastline along three beaches. He added that biodiversity had been damaged and acknowledged the possible threat to human health. For this reason, the whole area has been closed and it is forbidden to carry out all kinds of normal activities there.
Pampilla could face fines of up to $ 34.5 million, the Department of the Environment said. The case is already being dealt with by the relevant prosecutor’s office.