Thursday, 19 March 2009 4:02 AM

Underwater Eruption Off Tonga Coast Generating Interest

An underwater volcanic eruption off the coast of Tonga is generating interest with spectacular columns of smoke spewing out of the sea near Nuku'alofa, the country's capital.

According to the Matangi Tonga Online, Nuku'alofa's residents 'woke up to the spectacular sight of a sprouting white cloud of volcanic smoke or steam, which could be seen clearly on the northern horizon from the Nuku'alofa waterfront' yesterday morning with geologists estimating the 'underwater eruption is about 12 km away from the capital'.

An underwater volcanic eruption in the vicinity of the twin islands of Hunga Tonga and Hunga Ha'apai is sending up a huge column of white and grey smoke thousands of metres into the air that stood out against the bright blue sky this morning.

A spokesperson from the Geological Division of the Ministry of Lands said that the smoke was reported to the Ministry by the Tonga Defence Services yesterday, March 17, and the government geologist and staff of the Geological Division were on their way to have a closer look at the event.

They believe that there was an underwater eruption following a strong sharp tremor that was felt in Nuku'alofa on Friday. She said they believed that the underwater activity is taking place to the west of the twin islands of Hunga Tonga and Hunga Ha'apai, within sight of Nuku'alofa.


According to the report, sharp tremors have been felt in Nuku'alofa about twice a week through the past three weeks, the 'last of which was the longest, about four seconds, on last Friday afternoon March 13'.

With the possibility of a new island forming, to Radio Australia News reported that Kelepi Mafi from Tonga's Ministry of Lands, has states that a marine survey will begin tomorrow (today) to find out if the island nation is about to get a new island.

"At the moment we have no idea what is going on around there, apart from the smoke that we observe from Nuku'alofa, so at this point in time we are not able to give you an exact description of what has happened," he says.

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