Saturday 4 February 2023

Volcano eruption in Tonga islands tested reaction capacity in Costa Rica

Underwater volcano eruption near the remote island nation of Tonga, triggered a chain of warnings and causing strong waves as far away as Costa Rica. CNE coordinated evacuation on Pacific coast beaches and reported that no people were affected

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4 February 2023 - At The Banks - BCCR

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QCOSTARICA – The National Emergency Commission (Comisión Nacional de Emergencias – CNE) asked Pacific coast beachgoers to suspend water activities in the coastal zone and not remain within the beach line this Saturday between 12:30 pm and 1:30 pm, following an underwater volcano eruption near the remote Pacific nation of Tonga, triggering tsunami warnings across the Pacific

Puntarenas, Costa Rica

The Hunga-Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai underwater volcano is located some 65 kilometers from the island of Tongatapu, an archipelago in the South Pacific. The event caused a tsunami this Saturday on the coast of the island of Tonga and in other regions, such as Easter Island, in Chile.

According to the National Sunamis Monitoring System (Sinamot) of Costa Rica’s Universidad Nacional(UNA), it was possible for Costa Rica to have strong currents and waves, reported the CNE.

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Although an extraordinary impact was not expected, the CNE activated the Municipal Emergency Committees and with the help of the Fuerza Publica (National Polic), the Cruz Roja (Red Cross) and other entities, asked the population that was near the Pacific beaches to get out of the sea and remain vigilant during this period. Ut recommended not staying within the beach line and suspending water activities in the Pacific coastal area.

Jesús Mora, deputy mayor of Osa confirmed “There is constant monitoring from Quepos to Coronado de Osa, to observe the behavior of the sea.”

At 12:20 pm, these bathers who were on the beach, near the Monseñor Sanabria Hospital, in El Roble, Puntarenas were not aware of the eviction request that the CNE had issued. Photo: Andres Garita.

Similarly, in social networks, some coastal municipalities such as those of Santa Cruz, Quepos, Puntarenas and Garabito warned about the change in the waves and, at the same time, called for calm and not to alarm the population with false reports that were not those provided by the CNE, Sinamot, and first response institutions.

Reports indicated that did not notice anything abnormal in the sea; however, others informed Sinamot that, as the tide rose, they noticed that the sea retreated further.

Near the cruise ship pier in Puntarenas, José Arce, from the Aquatic Search and Rescue(Búsqueda y Rescate Acuático) unit, said that the beach was evicted and although it was not something alarming, he did notice some change in the waves at that time.

The CNE reported that the greatest wave effect occurred from 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm. The CNE and other institutions remained monitoring the Pacific coast throughout the afternoon Saturday, in case of any change in sea level.

The Fuerza Publica (national police) worked with the CNE to warn tourists that they were on the beach, as seen in this photo from Cóbano. Photo: Courtesy CNE.
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The president of the CNE, Alexánder Solís, reported that at 3:30 pm there were no reports of damage or injuries. “This teaches us the importance of being prepared to face this type of event, regardless of whether the threats occur in places far away from our country,” said Solís.

In Costa Rica’s Pacific coast very rarely, according to the records, tsunamis have been detected and when they did occur they were very minor, for example in the North Pacific there was a small one after an earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Nicaragua that caused many deaths and destruction in the neighboring country in 1992.

The Sistema Nacional de Monitoreo de Tsunamis (Sinamot) -National Tsunami Monitoring System- indicated the probability of strong currents and waves due to the tsunami caused by the eruption of the volcano in Tonga. Image: Sinamot.

Similarly, in August 2007, the Tsunami Warning Center in the Pacific, located in Hawaii, issued a tsunami warning for South America, Central America and Mexico, after a strong earthquake in Peru, however, shortly after it the alert was canceled.

A snapshot taken from images from Japan’s Himawari-8 satellite and released by the National Institute of Information and Communications (Japan) on January 15, 2022, shows the volcanic eruption in Tonga, which was heard in Fiji, more than 800 kilometers away. (HANDOUT/AFP)
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