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Ash cloud from Tongan volcanic eruption spreads

Wednesday 29 December 2021 | Written by RNZ | Published in Regional, Tonga

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Ash cloud from Tongan volcanic eruption spreads
This picture taken on December 21, 2021 shows white gaseous clouds rising from the Hunga Ha'apai eruption seen from the Patangata coastline near Tongan capital Nuku'alofa. Photo: Mary Lyn Fonua

The Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha'apai volcano continues to erupt intermittently, and ash has been detected in all directions up to 30km away.

The head of Tonga Geological Services, Taaniela Kula, said that the ash cloud had risen to heights of 12km and the direction of ash had varied with the wind conditions.

"On Tuesday, ash was drifting east but shifted directions last night to north east and has continued to drift in a northerly direction today," he said.

Overall, the amount of ash, steam and gas being spewed from the volcano has reduced, in comparison to last week, Kula said.

He noted that the volcano was about 60km away from uninhabited areas, and that no earthquakes had been detected on their seismometers.

This indicated that the magma chamber, which is feeding the eruption, is unlikely to be deeper than 7km below the ocean floor.

Currently the danger grade for the ash fall is orange, with red being the most severe. While no one has reported ash falling on houses yet, Kula advised that the public should take measures to protect their rainwater catchment and storage systems, should ash make landfall.

Kula said that people need to make sure they continue to sanitise and maintain their rainwater tanks, to stop the growth of a particular algae bloom that results from ash contamination.

This picture taken on December 21, 2021 shows white gaseous clouds rising from the Hunga Ha'apai eruption. A huge dust cloud spewed out when a volcano erupted in Tonga this week could result in showers of acid rain across the Pacific kingdom, emergency authorities have warned.
This picture taken on December 21, 2021 shows white gaseous clouds rising from the Hunga Ha'apai eruption. A huge dust cloud spewed out when a volcano erupted in Tonga this week could result in showers of acid rain across the Pacific kingdom, emergency authorities have warned. Photo: Mary Lyn Fonua

Flight from NZ cancelled

Meanwhile, the flight from New Zealand that was scheduled to arrive on Tuesday was cancelled due the volcanic activity at Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha'apai.

Matangi Tonga online reports the flight was meant to bring in the funeral cortege of the late Lord Ma'afu.

Tonga's Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Ma'afu, died on 12 December at the Auckland City Hospital, New Zealand.

Air New Zealand's flight to Tonga on 21 December was also cancelled due to the same volcanic activity.