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Tongan Volcano Eruption Captured In Terrifying Detail From Space

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Tongan Volcano Eruption Captured In Terrifying Detail From Space

Satellites have captured the moment an underwater volcano erupted in Tonga.

A humungous plume of ash was sent high into the sky on Saturday (January 15) just before nightfall when vent exploded near the island of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai.

The eruption sent a sonic boom that was reportedly heard as far away as Alaska, according to The Guardian, as the sound wave rocketed across the Pacific at 1,200 kilometres an hour.

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The Sydney Morning Herald suggests it was the equivalent of 1,000 Hiroshima bombs.

The GOES West Earth-observing satellite, which is operated by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, caught the volcanic explosion in clear detail.

There was a tsunami warning issued for Japan, Hawaii, the east coast of Australia, and even the west coast of the US as a result of the eruption.

It's still unclear just how damaging the event has been for Tonga.

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The underwater volcano lies around 65 kilometres north of the capital Nuku'alofa, and a 1.5 metre tsunami reportedly hit shortly after the explosion.

One eyewitness told Stuff: "It was massive, the ground shook, our house was shaking. It came in waves. My younger brother thought bombs were exploding nearby.

"We just knew straight away it was a tsunami. Just water gushing into our home.

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"You could just hear screams everywhere, people screaming for safety, for everyone to get to higher ground."

Another person posted on Facebook, saying: "It's really bad. They told us to stay indoors and cover our doors and windows because it's dangerous.

"I felt sorry for the people. Everyone just froze when the explosion happened. We rushed home."

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There have been no reported deaths as of Sunday (January 16) evening, however communication has been difficult to establish.

People have been told to wear face masks to protect their lungs from the ash and drink bottled water as their main sources are at risk of contamination.

New Zealand and Australia are expected to surveillance flights soon to see how bad it is on the ground, according to the BBC.

It could be a long road to recovery once the immediate threat passes.

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Katie Greenwood of the IFRC in Fiji said: "We suspect there could be up to 80,000 people throughout Tonga affected by either the eruption itself or from the tsunami wave and inundation as a result of the eruption," she said.

"That was a shock to people, so we do hold some concern for those outer islands and we're very keen to hear from people."

Featured Image Credit: UPI/Alamy Live News

Topics: News, Volcano

Stewart Perrie
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