A week after the volcano eruption and tsunami in Tonga, emergency relief is starting to arrive. Media reported that only three people died in Tonga. Perhaps the initial shockwave from the explosion served as a warning for many. However countries around the Pacific rim have experienced wider effects from the tsunami accompanying the blast.

Oil spill in Peru following tsunami surge

An unexpected outcome has been a significant oil spill in Peru, over 10,000 km away. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-60063492

oil spill ashore clean-up Ventanillas
Cleaning up oil spill washed ashore at Ventanillas, on the northern outskirts of Lima

Waves from the Tonga volcanic eruption disrupted the unloading of crude oil for the La Pampilla refinery in Peru. Early media reports said that over 6,000 barrels of oil has been spilled. The oil has since spread, contaminating 21 beaches and oiling wildlife.

Tsunami felt all around Pacific

While tsunami are often thought of as a high wall of water, strong and unusual currents are a concern for mariners.

Following the Tonga eruption, surges of around a metre high came ashore at coastal locations around the Pacific. This created strong currents. Media reported two drownings off a beach in northern Peru.

Details of how the spill occurred are yet to emerge. It’s plausible that the Tonga tsunami waves could have caused a discharging oil tanker to surge, breaking one or more oil discharge pipe connections.

Active warning systems

Tsunami risks from earthquakes are well known. The Tonga eruption shows how other types of tsunami also create risks in distant places. Underwater landslides and meteor impacts can also cause tsunami.

A key to preparing for such events is predictive modelling and warning systems that reliably warn when strong surges can be expected. Armed with that information, port authorities could add mooring lines, suspend discharge, or direct a tanker to temporarily leave port.

About the Author – Kevin Oldham

Kevin Oldham is a director of Navigatus with a depth of experience in helping clients to achieve success in an uncertain context. A brief profile for Kevin can be found here.