Tonga tsunami: Photos reveal devastation of volcano eruption in South Pacific

Tonga tsunami: Photos reveal devastation of volcano eruption in South Pacific
Tonga tsunami: Photos reveal devastation of volcano eruption in South Pacific

Harrowing photos have shown the devastation caused by the tsunami in Tonga as villages are destroyed and houses are left resembling piles of rubble.

The South Pacific archipelago was rocked by the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai underwater volcano on Saturday, which resulted in a tsunami striking minutes later.

The death toll from the disaster has climbed to three with every house on Mango Island completely destroyed.

Images show locals in the Kanokupolu village on the island of Tongatapu staring at the remains of their homes, many of which had been crushed by trees, while cars were seen buried under piles of branches.  

Harrowing photos have shown the devastation caused by the tsunami in Tonga as villages are destroyed and houses are turned into piles of rubble

Harrowing photos have shown the devastation caused by the tsunami in Tonga as villages are destroyed and houses are turned into piles of rubble

Tonga was rocked by an underwater volcano on Saturday, which resulted in a tsunami wreaking havoc on the islands minutes later

Tonga was rocked by an underwater volcano on Saturday, which resulted in a tsunami wreaking havoc on the islands minutes later

A car is seen buried underneath a pile of branches in the wake of the disaster in the South Pacific archipelago

A car is seen buried underneath a pile of branches in the wake of the disaster in the South Pacific archipelago

Images show locals in Kanokupolu village on the island of Tongatapu staring at the remains of their homes, many of which were crushed by trees

Images show locals in Kanokupolu village on the island of Tongatapu staring at the remains of their homes, many of which were crushed by trees

Researchers from NASA have estimated the blast was '10 megatons of TNT equivalent', which is 500 times more powerful than the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.

James Garvin, the chief scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, told NPR although the blast was significant, it was likely there wouldn't be another eruption of that size in a long time.

'If the past precedent for volcanic eruptions in this kind of setting has any meaning at all then we won't have another one of these explosions for a while,' he said.

The eruption was heard as far away as Alaska, some 9,744 kilometres distant.

Michael Poland, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey said the event was possibly one of the loudest recorded on the planet in over a century.

'This might be the loudest eruption since [the Indonesian volcano] Krakatau in 1883,' he told the publication. 

The South Pacific islands lie over a subduction zone otherwise known as a collision of two of the earth's tectonic plates, where one slips under the other.

Mr Garvin said that as Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai formed, layers of liquid magma filled chambers beneath it.

He believes the eruption was sparked due to a change to the underwater system, which led to sea water flooding into the chambers. 

Incredible footage captured the sound of the explosion as terrified locals fled the beach. 

In the video taken 40 miles away from the underwater volcano, a huge plume of ash is shown rising over the horizon, filling the sky before a deafening boom is heard.

The person filming and other onlookers are seen visibly shaken as the shockwave hits, and immediately turn away from the ocean and begin running in-land. 

Pictured: Video footage captured moments before a shockwave from the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai underwater volcano struck Tonga's shores

Pictured: Video footage captured moments before a shockwave from the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai underwater volcano struck Tonga's shores

The footage spanned across the sky showing the huge plume of ash and steam rising from the volcano, moments before the shockwave hit Tonga

The footage spanned across the sky showing the huge plume of ash and steam rising from the volcano, moments before the shockwave hit Tonga

One person, who looks like a young boy, instantly turns away from the water and starts running. After a couple of seconds, the others do the same, presumably after realising the danger they are in. 

As they run away, the people can be heard panicking and swearing. The person filming appears to run inside a building and is heard speaking to a woman, before the footage cuts off. 

The government on Tuesday confirmed three have so far died from the disaster but the true extent of the eruption is not yet known.

Pictured: A plume rises over Tonga after the underwater volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai erupted in this satellite image taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite operated by Japan Meteorological Agency on January 15, 2022

Pictured: A plume rises over Tonga after the underwater volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai erupted in this satellite image taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite operated by Japan Meteorological Agency on January 15, 2022

The eruption at the underwater volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai off Tonga, January 14, 2022 is seen in a video gran showing the huge plume of ash and steam rising from the ocean

The eruption at the underwater volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai off Tonga, January 14, 2022 is seen in a video gran showing the huge plume of ash and steam rising from the ocean

The dead include a 65-year-old woman on Mango Island, a 49-year-old man on Nomuka Island, and 50-year-old Briton Angela Glover who was found dead on Tongatapu Island on Monday.

An entire village on Mango Island has been swept away by the tsunami, the government also confirmed, with just two buildings left standing on Fonoifua Island. Namuka Island also has 'extensive damage'.

Rescue operations including evacuations of Mango, Fonoifua and Atata islands are underway, with 'a number of' injuries also reported - though government officials could not say how many.

Communications from Tonga, a remote set of Pacific islands with a population of 105,000, have been sparse since disaster struck late Saturday.

The eruption not only sparked a tsunami, but covered nearby islands in ash, and severed an undersea internet cable connecting the country with the outside world.

While early reports from the islands were encouraging, as the days have gone on the picture has darkened. Aid workers on the main island of Tongatapu say the death toll there is likely to be limited, but fears are growing for hundreds of people who live on smaller outlying islands and have not been heard from since the eruption.

Reconnaissance planes from the Australian and New Zealand air forces circled some of the islands on

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