Tsunamis may be the scariest ocean phenomenon. These are large waves caused by an earthquake, volcanic eruptions, submarine landslides, and other disturbances. In recent history, tsunamis have devastated homes and lives as early warning systems have not performed as expected. Last week, the eruption of an underwater volcano near Tonga was the largest in nearly 30 years. Tonga, also called the Kingdom of Tonga, is a Polynesian country that consists of 169 islands near the coast of Australia. This eruption sent a massive cloud of ash and tsunami waves across the Pacific.
As the days progress, communications are still down in Australia and New Zealand. This has sparked concern amongst aid organizations and the entire world regarding the contaminated air and lack of clean water which has been the cause of two deaths since the eruption. That being said, the progression since the last tsunami in 2018 has been unmeasurable. According to the New York Times, "On Sept. 28, 2018, a tsunami triggered by a 7.5 magnitude earthquake destroyed thousands of homes and killed more than 1,200 people on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia." Today, the eruption caused a severe tsunami in Tongatapu, where the capital is located. Waves have also hit the rest of the eastern coast of Australia, Japan, and the western coasts of North and South America according to BBC News.
There remain a lot of questions about the events that occurred in the Southern Pacific. With a repair ship days away due to other eruptions, the islands of Tonga may face days or weeks without electricity and aid. The rest of the world has also been affected by the volcanic eruption. Although the waves on the west coast have been around three feet, the currents and tides have been unpredictable which could endanger those in the area. According to USA Today, "'two people were taken to the hospital after being swept out to sea while they were fishing at San Gregorio State Beach in San Mateo County,' Cal Fire said. The National Weather Service said there were reports of boats getting pushed up in docks, and isolated flooding was reported, including in beach parking lots at Port San Luis."
In the weeks to follow, aid and recovery of Tonga will consume authorities and citizens. Of course, this sparks the concern of a new wave of COVID infections. This is leading to new contactless delivery systems to avoid covid amongst the already devastating effects of the tsunami. Tongans are still awaiting words from loved ones as communication lines remain down almost a week after eruption. As Tonga sits along the "Pacific Ring of Fire," a fault line where earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur regularly, aid vessels are still attempting to navigate these dangerous waters.