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Friday, March 20

Undersea Volcano Erupts Near Tonga -- YIKES!

Tonga, a 170-island archipelago about halfway between Australia and Tahiti, is part of the Pacific "ring of fire" — an arc of earthquake and volcanic zones stretching from Chile in South America through Alaska and down through Vanuatu to Tonga.

The volcano began erupting on Monday and ejected so much lava that by Wednesday it had formed the island about seven miles off the coast of Tongatapu, the main island of Tonga. Satellite pictures revealed the new island still shrouded by smoke, and a huge raft of pumice floating about two miles north of the eruption.

Last night the island was rocked by a 7.9 magnitude earthquake, causing the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre to issue a warning for neighbouring islands: “This tsunami may have been destructive along coastlines of the region near the earthquake epicentre. Authorities in the region should take appropriate action in response to this possibility.” There were no reports of any damage or casualties on Tonga’s main island and the alert was later cancelled.

Professor Simon Turner, a geochemist at Macquarie University in Sydney, warned that if the volcano continued to erupt it had the potential to be devastating: “Underwater volcanoes can be violent, and have a strong climatic effect. This one isn’t getting into the stratosphere yet but as it continues to grow that is a possibility.”

The island is likely to last several months or even a few years, but will eventually be eroded away by the waves.

More Photos here via

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