Tonga volcano erupts eight times in two days

The geological office of the Pacific nation of Tonga reported Tuesday that a volcano north of the country’s largest island has erupted eight times in the previous 48 hours and has advised ships to avoid the area.

For the past ten days, the Home Reef volcano has been erupting, spewing molten lava, steam, and ash at least three kilometers (nearly two miles) into the air.

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Residents of Vava’u and Ha’apai, two of Tonga’s most populous islands, are currently at low risk from Home Reef’s eruption, according to a statement from the geological service’s Volcano Watch Team.

But warning levels were raised by one notch Tuesday as the pace of eruptions quickened.

Pilots have been warned to take caution when flying through airspace near the volcano after the aviation alert level for the Home Reef was raised to orange, one step below an emergency.

Mariners have been told not to sail closer than four kilometers from Home Reef and to look out for falling ash.

Tonga, a tiny nation made up of 171 islands and home to around 100,000 people, experiences earthquakes frequently.

According to researchers from the University of Bath, it was shaken by the eruption of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano in January this year, which was one of the most potent in contemporary times.

Local relief workers said the explosion seemed “like an atomic bomb,” and it triggered a 15-meter tsunami that wiped out villages, killed three people, and damaged Tonga’s communication lines, cutting it off from the outside world for weeks.

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