Tsunami warning called off following eruption of South Pacific volcano but the threat remains
Ecuador’s Oceanic Research Institute called off the tsunami warning Sunday that it had issued a day earlier, saying wave and sea level activity had returned to normal levels. The warning followed the eruption of the underwater Hunga Tonga-Ha’apai volcano off the coast of Tonga in the South Pacific.
Called the largest eruption on earth in 30 years by Australian geologists, the volcano sent a plume of steam and gas more than 20 kilometers into the atmosphere. “If the eruption had occurred above sea level, it would have spread ash for thousands of miles and disrupted air travel,” the Australia Geologic Survey office reported.
Large waves were reported Saturday in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos, as well as along Ecuador’s mainland coast. Swimmers and sun-bathers were ordered off the beaches in Salinas and Manta Saturday, preceding higher than a normal tide and strong waves. Waves overwashed beaches in several locations, local officials said.
In the Kingdom of Tonga, about 3,000 kilometers north of New Zealand, a tsunami caused extensive damage to seaside properties and inundated streets on the main islands. In Peru, two simmers drowned in Naylamp, north of Lima, as a result of high waves caused by the eruption. Waves as high as one-and-a-half meters above normal were reported as far away as the United States and Canada.
A second eruption of Hunga Tonga-Ha’apai, not as strong as Saturday’s, was reported Monday morning but no new tsunami warnings were issued.
The Oceanic Research Institute said future tsunami warnings are possible depending on volcanic activity, and advised communities on Ecuador’s coast to remain alert.