The eruption of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano triggered a huge tsunami causing rising water levels on the coastline of Peru and the Pacific Coast in the United States.
The capital of Tonga, Nuku’alofa, suffered “significant” damage according to New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Arden.
The tsunami threat around the Pacific subsided on Sunday 16 January, while a huge ash cloud covered the island nation.
New Zealand and Australia naval ships providing aid are expected to reach Tonga on Friday 21 January.
Here is a look at where Tonga is located and how many people live there.
Where is Tonga?
Tonga consists of 176 islands and is located in the South Pacific Ocean, around 2000 miles east of Brisbane, Australia.
The islands are scattered over an area of 270,000 square miles of ocean and are organised in a 500-mile line that runs North and South.
Tonga is officially known as the Kingdom of Tonga and is also called “The Friendly Islands”.
The capital of Tonga, Nuku’alofa, is the country’s largest city and is found on the main island of Tongatapu.
The islands of Tonga are categorised into four main groups. The first is the Tongatapu Group which is the central cluster of islands and experiences a colder climate than other parts of the country.
The second group is the Ha’apai Group which consists of 62 islands that are divided into an east and west group. The third is known as the Vava’u Group, boasting a tropical climate attracting many tourists.
The fourth is known as the Tongan Niuas, a group of islands in the northernmost part of the country. It consists of mainly sparsely populated volcanic islands, with the 1600 inhabitants continuing to hold onto traditional customs.
How many people live in Tonga?
In 2018 the population of Tonga stood at approximately 103,000 and nearly two-thirds of which resided in the main island Tongatapu.
The vast majority of Tongans are Polynesian, with a small mix of European heritage.
The widely spoken languages are English and Tongan, although some isolated language variations can be found.
Only 36 of the islands are inhabited.
Where is the volcano located?
The undersea volcano is located around 40 miles north of Tonga’s capital and is part of the Pacific “Ring of Fire”.
The Ring of Fire is a path along the Pacific Ocean characterised by active volcanoes and frequent earthquakes - 75% of Earth’s volcanoes are located on this path.
The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano rises 114 metres above sea level, is 1.8km high and 20km wide.
It had been active since an earlier eruption on 20 December 2021 but was declared dormant by authorities on 11 January 2022.
The volcano has erupted several times in recent years.
Experts have said the Tongan volcano is capable of producing a huge explosion roughly every 1,000 years, likening it to a weapons-grade chemical explosion.
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