Large volcanic eruption near Tonga sends residents indoors

Source: 1News

People in Tonga are being urged to stay indoors after a massive eruption at a nearby volcanic island on Monday, sending steam and gas 20 kilometres into the air.

Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai lies around 60 kilometres from the mainland, and has been erupting for around one month.

Rennie Jegsen of Tonga Geological Services said the eruption was the largest so far.

"The eruption is huge, seven times bigger than the eruption late last year and earlier this month, this is a very big one."

An eruption so big, residents in Tonga’s capital, Nukuʻalofa, could smell it.

“The people called because they smell something, we advised them, yeah that's the sulfur, that's part of the eruption and that's normal but we have to take care of ourselves from the ash, the volcanic ash,” said Jegsen.

Swirling tides were seen at the Nuku'alofa waterfront on Monday, prompting a warning for residents to stay away.

Geoff Kilgour, GNS Volcanologist, said the ash that's generated along with the explosion usually rises to a few hundreds of metres to a few kilometres above surface, but “not nearly as high as steam ejected up to maybe 20km high”.

Tongan officials are working 24/7 to monitor further volcanic activity.

Jegsen is urging residents to be prepared.

“Protect their rain water, water tanks, also make sure wear a mask but the best thing to do is stay indoor for the the time being.”