By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
WELLINGTON/BUDAPEST (Worthy News) – An underwater volcano eruption in the Pacific Ocean nation of Tonga sent ash 100,000 feet (30 kilometers) high, rattling the region and coastal areas worldwide, with tsunamis and earthquakes injuring or killing people globally.
The fate of thousands of Tongans remained uncertain Sunday as the eruption of the Hunga Tonga volcano cut off communications to the outer islands of the troubled Pacific nation.
Near the international dateline, the volcano is 40 miles (64 kilometers) north of Tonga’s main island. Home to 105,000 people, Tonga can be found northeast of New Zealand and southeast of Fiji.
Australia and New Zealand dispatched surveillance flights on Monday to assess the damage in Tonga, isolated from the rest of the world due to the eruption of an underwater volcano that triggered a tsunami and blanketed the Pacific island with ash.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison pledged aid to Tonga as early as possible but said the volcano ash had hampered relief efforts.
“There’s been a lot of challenges there with the ash cloud and the disruption to communications, and so we are working together to get as much support to Tonga as we possibly can,” Morrison told radio station 2GB on Monday.
New Zealand’s Defense Minister Peeni Henare told reporters in Auckland that power had been restored in large parts of Nuku’alofa, the capital. Some communications are back up, he added.
A New Zealand Hercules C-130 would perform drops of essentials after assessed requirements, and the navy would be involved.
However, it won’t be an easy operation. Video footage obtained by Worthy News showed streets and roads on Tongatapu being submerged by what appeared ash-filled seawater. The footage revealed that several people fell in more than one meter (over 3 feet) waves.
With much of the area covered in ash, residents experienced a near-total blackout of power, phone lines, and internet services. The extent of injuries or damaged remained unclear, but video footage showed massive devastation.
The eruption was heard as far away as Alaska, about 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometers) away, with an area the size of New England blanketed by the ashen smoke plume.
The Vulcano’s powerful blast impacted coastal communities around the world. Two people drowned off a beach in faraway northern Peru said the local civil defense authority Sunday after unusually high waves were recorded in several coastal areas following Saturday’s eruption.
Japan warned of waves as high as three meters (10 feet) and waves of 1.2 meters (4 feet) to hit the country’s south.
Japan’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency said at least 229,000 residents were asked to evacuate, reported the Tokyo-based Nikkei Asia news magazine. One person was reportedly injured during an evacuation in Okinawa.
“We have a nightmare situation of an isolated community experiencing the effects of a large volcanic ash plume producing significant volcanic lightning, as well as a tsunami,” said Janine Krippner, a volcanologist at the Smithsonian Global Volcanism Program. “Seeing that ash plume, that volcanic lightning, and that tsunami leave me feeling sick thinking about the people
being impacted by this large eruption,” Krippner wrote on social networking site Twitter.
The eruption was even heard as far away as Alaska, about 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometers) away, while an area the size of New England in the U.S. was blanketed by the ashen smoke plume.
Even in Europe, including in Hungary, there were reports of changes in the atmosphere. Tonga’s troubles also came amid earthquakes in several European countries, such as in northern Greece where a magnitude 5.4 earthquake was even felt in Athens, the capital, Sunday.
There were no immediate reports of damage, but video footage seen by Worthy News showed a store violently shaking as an earthquake hit the Greek island of Crete. A man working in the store could be seen running for cover.
Earthquakes hit many other nations over the weekend, such as Asia. Tremors there rattled parts of the Philippines, which is already struggling with the aftermath of last month’s typhoon Rai, locally known as Odette. The storm killed hundreds and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.
A 3.9 quake hit the Philippines’ province of Nueva Vizcaya in the Cagayan Valley region some 207 kilometers (129 miles) north of the capital Manila, and a 3.0 earthquake in the South China Sea was also felt 242 kilometers (150 miles) northwest of Manila, reported the volcanodiscovery.com website.
Christians in devastated regions told Worthy News they were praying and trusting God. However, some wondered on social media whether the world’s weather pattern showed that “the second coming of Jesus Christ” was near.
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