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Japan is in tsunami alert as waves reach coast after Tonga volcano eruption


  • The Japan Meteorological Agency said a tsunami of around one metre is believed to have reached Pacific coastal areas, while a three-metre tsunami may hit islands such as Amami
  • A tsunami advisory was also in effect for Hawaii, Alaska and the US Pacific coast, with reports of waves pushing boats up in the docks in Hawaii
A Meteorological Agency map shows areas under a tsunami warning (red) and an advisory (yellow) as of early Sunday morning. | Photo by Japan Meteorological Agency

A tsunami caused by a massive underwater volcanic eruption near Tonga reached Japan’s coast late Saturday and early Sunday, with the weather service warning of up to 3 meter waves in some areas.

A tsunami warning was initially issued for the Amami and Tokara islands, but was later extended to the coast of Iwate Prefecture. According to the agency, waves of up to 3 meters were possible in those areas.

At 11:55 pm, Saturday, a 1.2-meter tsunami was observed in the Kominato district of Kagoshima’s Amami Oshima island. A less severe tsunami warning was issued for the rest of the country’s Pacific coast and some areas facing the Sea of Japan. Tsunami waves of less than one meter in height have been confirmed in areas along the coast from Hokkaido to Okinawa.

Those in affected areas were advised to leave seaside areas.

On Saturday evening, the weather service said there was a chance of minor sea level changes in Japan, but it ruled out a damaging tsunami and did not issue a warning or advisory. Shortly after 12 a.m., the agency shifted gears. The warning was issued on Sunday, but waves had apparently already arrived in some areas.

According to the agency, tsunami waves may have been magnified due to changes in atmospheric pressure in wide areas caused by the eruption.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or property damage in Japan as a result of the tsunami.

Following the tsunami warnings and advisories, the government established a liaison office at the Prime Minister’s Office to collect data.

Fearful Tongans fled to higher ground on Saturday after a massive eruption triggered tsunami warnings across the South Pacific and the entire West Coasts of United States.

The Saturday eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano occurred just hours after a separate Friday tsunami warning was lifted as a result of the eruption. Space images captured the moment the eruption ejected a mushroom of smoke and ash into the air and sent a shock wave across the surrounding sea.

A tsunami wave measuring 1.2 meters was observed in Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, according to Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology.

“It was massive, the ground shook, our house was shaking. It came in waves. My younger brother thought bombs were exploding nearby,” Taufa told the Stuff news website.

She stated that water filled their home minutes later and that she saw a neighboring house’s wall collapse.

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

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

Tonga’s King Tupou VI was reportedly evacuated from the Royal Palace in Nuku’alofa and driven to a villa far from the coast by a police convoy.

The initial eruption lasted at least eight minutes and sent plumes of gas, ash, and smoke hundreds of kilometers into the air.

Residents near the coast were advised to seek higher ground.

The eruption was so intense it was heard as “loud thunder sounds” in Fiji more than 800 kilometers away, officials in Suva said.

Fijian officials have advised residents to cover water collection tanks in the event of acidic rain.

According to Victorina Kioa of the Tonga Public Service Commission, people should “stay away from areas of warning, which are low-lying coastal areas, reefs, and beaches.”

Taaniela Kula, the head of Tonga Geological Services, urged people to stay inside, wear masks if they were outside, and cover rainwater reservoirs and rainwater harvesting systems.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a “tsunami advisory” for American Samoa, stating that “sea level fluctuations and strong ocean currents that could be a hazard along beaches” existed.

Authorities in New Zealand, Fiji, Vanuatu, Chile, and Australia issued similar warnings, saying a swath of coastline, including Sydney, could be hit by tsunami waves.

People in the neighboring state of New South Wales were advised to “get out of the water and move away from the immediate water’s edge.”

Tsunami warnings have also been issued for the entire United States. West Coast storms and waves caused low-level flooding in Hawaii.

The National Weather Service in the United States issued tsunami warnings from California to Alaska, predicting two-foot waves, strong rip currents, and coastal flooding.

“Move off the beach and out of harbors and marinas in these areas,” it advised.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center reported that “a tsunami is currently being observed” in Hawaii, but that “no reported damage and only minor flooding throughout the islands.”

The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano is located on an uninhabited island about 65 kilometers north of Tongan capital Nuku’alofa.

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