Incredible moment Tonga volcanic shockwave terrifies beachgoers

This is the incredible moment a shockwave from the Tonga volcanic eruption hit shore, terrifying beachgoers, just minutes before a devastating tsunami hit land.

In the footage taken from 40 miles away from the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai underwater volcano, a huge plume of ash is shown rising over the horizon, filling the sky before a deafening boom is heard.

The person filming and other onlookers are visibly shaken as the shockwave hits, and immediately turn away from the ocean and begin running in-land.

Pictured: Video footage captured moments before a shockwave from the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai underwater volcano struck Tonga’s shores

The footage spanned across the sky showing the huge plume of ash and steam rising from the volcano, moments before the shockwave hit Tonga

The footage spanned across the sky showing the huge plume of ash and steam rising from the volcano, moments before the shockwave hit Tonga

At first, the video shows the huge ash cloud rising into the sky. 

The person filming tells viewers to ‘check that out’ as he pans across the sky, showing the scale of the plume rising from the volcano.

Suddenly, a loud crack is heard in the air and the filmer and others on the beach shout out in surprise as the shockwave blasts through them from across the ocean.

One person, who looks like a young boy, instantly turns away from the water and starts running in-land. After a couple of seconds, the others do the same, presumably after realising the danger they are in. 

As they run away, the people can be heard panicking and swearing. The person filming appears to run inside a building and is heard speaking to a woman, before the footage cuts off.

Minutes after the shockwave from Saturday’s eruption, Tonga was struck by a tsunami. The scale of the destruction is still being realised.

All the homes on one of Tonga’s small outer islands were destroyed, with three people so far confirmed dead, the government said on Tuesday in its first update since the disaster struck.

Pictured: A plume rises over Tonga after the underwater volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai erupted in this satellite image taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite operated by Japan Meteorological Agency on January 15, 2022

Pictured: A plume rises over Tonga after the underwater volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai erupted in this satellite image taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite operated by Japan Meteorological Agency on January 15, 2022

The eruption at the underwater volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai off Tonga, January 14, 2022 is seen in a video gran showing the huge plume of ash and steam rising from the ocean

The eruption at the underwater volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai off Tonga, January 14, 2022 is seen in a video gran showing the huge plume of ash and steam rising from the ocean

The dead include a 65-year-old woman on Mango Island, a 49-year-old man on Nomuka Island, and 50-year-old Briton Angela Glover who was found dead on Tongatapu Island on Monday.

An entire village on Mango Island has been swept away by the tsunami, the government said today, with just two buildings left standing on Fonoifua Island. Namuka Island also has ‘extensive damage’.

Rescue operations including evacuations of Mango, Fonoifua and Atata islands are underway, with ‘a number of’ injuries also reported – though government officials could not say how many.

Communications from Tonga, a remote set of Pacific islands with a population of 105,000, have been sparse since disaster struck late Saturday when the Hunga-Tonga volcano dramatically exploded.

The eruption sparked a tsunami, covering nearby islands in ash, and severing an undersea internet cable connecting the country with the outside world.

While early reports from the islands were encouraging, as the days have gone on the picture has darkened. Aid workers on the main island of Tongatapu say the death toll there is likely to be limited, but fears are growing for hundreds of people who live on smaller outlying islands and have not been heard from since the eruption.

Reconnaissance planes from the Australian and New Zealand air forces circled some of the islands on Monday, giving a glimpse of the conditions being faced by survivors – moon-like landscapes covered in thick ash, buildings flattened, and people living under tarpaulins.

Aid efforts are being hampered by damage to the islands’ main port and airport, but also by the country’s strict zero-Covid policy which could see aid shipments and workers quarantined to stop a ‘tsunami of Covid’.

Tonga has recorded just one official case in a traveller from New Zealand who tested positive in isolation in October last year, and is determined to keep it that way. Ministers have already warned their counterparts in New Zealand and Australia, which are coordinating aid efforts, that virus protocols will be applied to rescuers.  

New Zealand and Australian air force planes have circled Tonga, as the true scale of devastation caused to the islands slowly emerges. Pictured above is one of the smaller islands, which appears grey because it is blanketed in ash

New Zealand and Australian air force planes have circled Tonga, as the true scale of devastation caused to the islands slowly emerges. Pictured above is one of the smaller islands, which appears grey because it is blanketed in ash

An image taken from a military reconnaissance plane shows a Tongan village inundated with ash, while the beach shows signs of water damage where tsunami waves washed ashore following a huge volcanic eruption at the weekend

An image taken from a military reconnaissance plane shows a Tongan village inundated with ash, while the beach shows signs of water damage where tsunami waves washed ashore following a huge volcanic eruption at the weekend

Tonga has given its first update on rescue efforts since the eruption and tsunami hit, revealing which islands are worst-affected and where evacuations are currently taking place

Tonga has given its first update on rescue efforts since the eruption and tsunami hit, revealing which islands are worst-affected and where evacuations are currently taking place

Tarpaulin tents are seen being used as temporary shelters on Mango Island, where every building has been destroyed

Tarpaulin tents are seen being used as temporary shelters on Mango Island, where every building has been destroyed

Satellite images reveal how Kanokupolu, a village on the hard-hit western side of Tonga’s main island of Tongatapu, has been almost wiped out as ash turns the landscape grey

Satellite images reveal how the village of Kanokupolu, on the main island of Tongatapu, was completely washed away in a tsunami which struck after a volcanic eruption late Saturday

Satellite images reveal damage caused by the eruption and tsunami at Tonga’s main port in the capital Nuku’alofa, which is now blanketed in ash with many buildings damaged or destroyed

Satellite images of Niutoua, a village on Tonga’s main island of Tongatapu, show how it has been completely destroyed with all buildings washed away during a tsunami triggered by the eruption

Satellite images taken before and after the eruption reveal how a village on one of Tonga’s islands has been badly damaged, with the surrounding landscape blanketed in ash

‘Tsunami of Covid’ fears hamper Tonga rescue efforts 

Rescue efforts for disaster-stricken Tonga are being hampered because of the Pacific islands’ strict zero-Covid policy.

The country has confirmed just one case so far – a traveller who was in isolation at the time – and despite 60 per cent of people being fully vaccinated, is determined to stop any more from arriving.

Tonga has not spelled out the reasons for its policy, though rates of obesity on the islands are among the highest in the world – almost 60 per cent for men and 45 per cent for women – with obesity being a major comorbidity for Covid.

A study by the World Obesity Federation published in March last year found that Covid death rates are ten times higher in countries where more than half of adults are overweight or obese, such as the UK, US, and Italy.

Researchers even suggested that obese people be given priority for vaccination, along with elderly or clinically vulnerable people.

Curtis Tu’ihalangingie, head of Tonga’s mission in Australia, said Monday that any aid sent to the islands could have to undergo quarantine due to the risk of it being contaminated by Covid – despite the risk of transmission from packaging being very low.

Humanitarian workers sent to the islands will also be expected to undergo 21-day mandatory quarantine on arrival, the government has warned New Zealand and Australia which are helping rescue efforts.

Quarantine may be waived for emergency aid workers.

It comes despite the government warning today that water supplies on all of Tonga’s islands are badly contaminated with ash from the volcano. 

Mr Tuihalangingie told Australia’s national broadcaster ABC that keeping the country virus-free remains a priority, warning of a second ‘tsunami of Covid’.

Tsunami waves reaching up to 50ft hit the Ha’apia island group and the west coast of Tonga’s main island, Tongatapu, the prime minister’s office said. 

On the western coast of the main island, 56 houses were completely or seriously damaged and residents moved to evacuation centres.

Mango is about 43 miles from the Hunga Tonga volcano, which sent tsunami waves across the Pacific Ocean when it erupted with a blast heard 1,430 miles away in New Zealand.

A search and rescue operation began on Sunday for Atata island, which has a population of about 100 people.

‘Challenges to sea and air transportation remain due to damage sustained by the wharves and the ash that is covering the runways,’ it said. Some limited communications had been made with satellite phones, but other areas remain cut off.

The Tongan navy had deployed with health teams and water, food and tents to the Ha’apai islands, with more aid sent on Tuesday due to the severity of the damage observed on Mango, Fonoifua and Namuka islands, it said.

Australia’s Minister for the Pacific Zed Seselja said Tongan officials were hoping to evacuate people from the isolated, low-lying Ha’apai islands group and other outer islands where conditions were ‘very tough, we understand, with many houses being destroyed in the tsunami.’

The United Nations had earlier reported a distress signal was detected in Ha’apai, where Mango is located. The Tongan navy reported the area was hit by waves estimated to be 5-10 metres (15-30 feet) high, said the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Atata and Mango are between between 30 and 40 miles from the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano, which exploded on Saturday evening in a blast that was heard 1,400 miles away in New Zealand, threw a plume of ash into the atmosphere, and sent tsunami waves rippling across the Pacific. 

Atata has a population of about 100 people and Mango around 50 people. ‘It is very alarming to see the wave possibly went through Atata from one end to the other,’ said Tu’ihalangingie.

The NZDF images, which were posted unofficially on a Facebook site and confirmed by Tu’ihalangingie, also showed tarpaulins being used as shelter on Mango island. 

A thick layer of ash blankets the islands, the New Zealand High Commission said, adding it was working to establish communications with smaller islands ‘as a matter of priority’. 

Buildings and trees on the island of Nomuka, Tonga, are seen covered in ash in an image which first appears to have been taken in black and white but is in fact in colour

Buildings and trees on the island of Nomuka, Tonga, are seen covered in ash in an image which first appears to have been taken in black and white but is in fact in colour

Buildings are seen covered in ash with water damage visible along the coastline of a Tongan island in this image taken from a New Zealand air force reconnaissance plane

Buildings are seen covered in ash with water damage visible along the coastline of a Tongan island in this image taken from a New Zealand air force reconnaissance plane

An image taken from a New Zealand military plane reveals damage to a village on Fonoifua Island, Tonga

An image taken from a New Zealand military plane reveals damage to a village on Fonoifua Island, Tonga

An image from a New Zealand military plane reveals damage to Nomuka Island, Tonga, after the eruption

An image from a New Zealand military plane reveals damage to Nomuka Island, Tonga, after the eruption

Satellite images show a district of the Tongan capital Nuku’alofa before and after the eruption, with the buildings and trees turning grey after being blanketed in volcanic ash

Satellite images taken of the peak of the Hunga-Tonga volcano show how it was all-but destroyed in the explosive eruption late on Saturday, with only one piece left visible above the ocean

Nomuka Island, Tonga, is seen before and after the eruption which caused widespread damage to villages and blanketed the island in ash, turning it a dark grey colour

The peak of the Hunga-Tonga volcano is seen before and after the eruption, which destroyed most of the cone

Aid flights cannot land at Tonga's main airport because the runway is currently inundated with ash, with officials saying it take until at least Wednesday for workers to clear it by hand

Aid flights cannot land at Tonga’s main airport because the runway is currently inundated with ash, with officials saying it take until at least Wednesday for workers to clear it by hand

Workers are seen clearing the runway of Tonga's main airport in preparation for aid flights to land, though officials warn it could take until Wednesday for that to happen

Workers are seen clearing the runway of Tonga’s main airport in preparation for aid flights to land, though officials warn it could take until Wednesday for that to happen

The archipelago’s main airport, Fua’amotu International Airport, was not damaged in Saturday’s eruption and tsunami but heavy ashfall is preventing full operations, hampering international relief efforts.

The U.N. humanitarian office said Tongan officials had said that clearing the runway would take days as it was being done manually, by Wednesday at the earliest.

People on the western coast of the main island of Tongatapu had been evacuated because of ‘significant damage’, OCHA added in an update, while government ministers had broadcast warnings on radio against price gouging amid worries of supply shortages.

The Tongan government is expected to formally request aid from countries including Australia and New Zealand tomorrow. Both antipodean nations have C-130 military aircraft on standby, packed with emergency supplies.

‘The priority now will to be get supplies to Tonga and the biggest constraint on that at the moment … is the airport. There is still a significant amount of ash,’ Seselja said.

Tonga is a kingdom of 176 islands, of which 36 are inhabited, with a population of 104,494 people.

The archipelago has remained largely cut off from the world since the eruption which cut its main undersea communications cable.

Subcom, a U.S. based private company contracted to repair various subsea cables in the Asia-Pacific, said it was working with Tonga Cable Ltd to repair the cable that runs from Tonga to Fiji.

Samiuela Fonua, the chair of Tonga Cable, said there were two cuts in the undersea cable that would not be fixed until volcanic activity ceased, allowing repair crews access.

‘The condition of the site is still pretty messy at the moment,’ Fonua told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

The island of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai, which sits on the seismically active Pacific Ring of Fire, all but disappeared following the blast, according to satellite images taken about 12 hours later, making it difficult for volcanologists to monitor activity.

Damage to coastal areas is visible on Niniva Island, which was damaged in the Tonga tsunami

Damage to coastal areas is visible on Niniva Island, which was damaged in the Tonga tsunami

An image of Tonga's main port taken by an Australian military plane shows stacks of shipping containers have been bowled over by a tsunami wave which swept across the island

An image of Tonga’s main port taken by an Australian military plane shows stacks of shipping containers have been bowled over by a tsunami wave which swept across the island

Ash is seen covering buildings on O'Ua Island, Tonga, after a devastating underwater volcanic eruption struck the region and triggered a tsunami

Ash is seen covering buildings on O’Ua Island, Tonga, after a devastating underwater volcanic eruption struck the region and triggered a tsunami

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