Parts of coastal B.C. under tsunami advisory after Tonga volcano erupts

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The National Tsunami Warning Center is issuing advisories for several parts of coastal British Columbia after a volcanic eruption in the Pacific Basin near the Tonga Islands.

The center says four zones are affected by the advisory, which was issued this morning.

Zone A covers the North Coast including Haida Gwaii, while Zone B covers the central and northeast Vancouver Island coasts, which include Kitimat, Bella Coola and Port Hardy.

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The advisory also applies to the outer west coast of Vancouver Island from Cape Scott to Port Renfrew, dubbed Zone C, as well as Zone D which spans the Juan de Fuca Strait from Jordan River to Greater Victoria, including the Saanich Peninsula

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An undersea volcano erupted in spectacular fashion near the Pacific nation of Tonga on Saturday, sending large tsunami waves crashing across the shore and people rushing to higher ground.

A tsunami advisory is also in effect for Hawaii and the U.S. Pacific coast.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or the extent of the damage as communications with the small nation remained cut off hours after the eruption.

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In Hawaii, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center reported waves slamming ashore from half a meter (a foot) in Nawiliwili, Kauai, to 80 centimetres (2.7 feet) in Hanalei.

“We are relieved that there is no reported damage and only minor flooding throughout the islands,” the center said.

On Tonga, video posted to social media showed large waves washing ashore in coastal areas, swirling around homes and buildings.

New Zealand’s military said it was monitoring the situation and remained on standby, ready to assist if asked.

Satellite images showed a huge eruption, a plume of ash, steam and gas rising like a mushroom above the blue Pacific waters.

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The Tonga Meteorological Services said a tsunami warning was declared for all of the archipelago, and data from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center showed waves of 80 centimetres (2.7 feet) had been detected.

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Residents of American Samoa were alerted of the tsunami warning by local broadcasters as well as church bells that rang territory-wide.

An outdoor siren warning system was out of service. Those living along the shoreline quickly moved to higher ground.

As night fell, there were no reports of any damage and the Hawaii-based tsunami center cancelled the alert.

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Authorities in the nearby island nations of Fiji and Samoa also issued warnings, telling people to avoid the shoreline due to strong currents and dangerous waves. The Japan Meteorological Agency said there may be a slight swelling of the water along the Japanese coasts, but it was not expected to cause any damage.

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The Islands Business news site reported that a convoy of police and military troops evacuated Tonga’s King Tupou VI from his palace near the shore. He was among the many residents who headed for higher ground.

The explosion of the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano was the latest in a series of spectacular eruptions.

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A Twitter user identified as Dr. Faka’iloatonga Taumoefolau posted video showing waves crashing ashore.

“Can literally hear the volcano eruption, sounds pretty violent,” he wrote, adding in a later post: “Raining ash and tiny pebbles, darkness blanketing the sky.”

Earlier, the Matangi Tonga news site reported that scientists observed massive explosions, thunder and lightning near the volcano after it started erupting early Friday. Satellite images showed a five-kilometre-wide (three miles) plume rising into the air to about 20 kilometres (12 miles).

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More than 2,300 kilometres (1,400 miles) away in New Zealand, officials were warning of storm surges from the eruption.

The National Emergency Management Agency said some parts of New Zealand could expect “strong and unusual currents and unpredictable surges at the shore following a large volcanic eruption.”

The volcano is located about 64 kilometres (40 miles) north of the capital, Nuku’alofa. Back in late 2014 and early 2015, a series of eruptions in the area created a small new island and disrupted international air travel to the Pacific archipelago for several days.

Tonga is home to about 105,000 people.

— With files from the Canadian Press 

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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