A Massive Explosion and a Destructive Wave of Water // How big is the threat of tsunamis?

This past weekend, people living around the Pacific Ocean were warned to stay away from the shoreline because a massive wave of water—known as a tsunami—might be headed in their direction. A few failed to do so and found themselves in trouble because of higher than usual tides, but so far there have been no major injuries reported, and the advisories were lifted.
In the area where the waves would have ostensibly originated, however, it is less clear what the human toll might be. The tsunami was set off by the massive eruption of an undersea volcano called Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai. The eruption was so tremendous, in fact, that images from weather satellites in space show its plume suddenly covering a massive spot on the globe.
The nearby island nation of Tonga, located just a few miles from the volcano, was hit by both the falling ash from the eruption and an inundation of water. It is still not known exactly what happened there and the extent of the destruction that occurred, because the undersea cables that carry telephone and Internet signals were either destroyed or disrupted. The archipelago, which is approximately 5,000 miles southwest of the continental US, is fairly remote; the closest sizeable country is New Zealand, 1,000 miles to the southwest. More than 100,000 people live in Tonga.

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