Tonga volcano continues to pump out plumes of gas and dust

By RNZ.co.nz and is republished with permission.

The Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano in Tonga is continuing to pump plumes of gas and dust several kilometres in to the air.

RNZ Pacific correspondent Kalafi Moala said there seems to be no end to the eruption, with another one occurring on Thursday.

A frigate bird flying on the thermals from a new vent as steam and gas rise from the eruption of the Tonga volcano.
Credit: Mary Lyn Fonua / AFP Photo: Mary Lyn Fonua / AFP

“With the wind conditions it has affected mostly the Ha’apai area but also Vava’u and it’s not affecting Tongatapu even thoguh we in Nuku’alofa can actually see it taking place. Yesterday (Wednesday) I was driving by and looked out at the waterfront and I saw lightning coming out of the area,” he said.

An Air New Zealand flight had to turn back mid-flight on Tuesday.

The body of Lord Ma’afu was on that flight and the delay has resulted in his funeral in Tonga being postponed.

Monitoring the eruption

Tonga’s geology team is working 24/7 monitoring the Hunga Tonga Hunga Haapai eruption.

Lead geologist Taniela Kula said Tonga’s navy got within four kilometres of the eruption site to record the erruption.

Mr Kula said visual recording has helped confirms it’s the same source as the last eruption there seven years ago.

“It showed a really explosive eruption spewing out materials up 350 metres above sea level just over the vent.”

Mr Kula said steam clouds from the eruption are reaching 14 kilometres above sea level and are drifting north-north-east towards Samoa.

He said Hunga Tonga Hunga Haapai last erupted in 2014 and before that in 2009.

“This morning (Thursday) we noticed a slow reduction in the amount of gas emitted from Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai but it’s still continuously erupting, but at a lower pace than yesterday.

“It’s a natural phenomena and we can only observe what comes out of it – [there is] not enough equipment to probe into what’s in the sub-surface of the volcano,” he said.

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