Tonga: Tsunami waves hit South Pacific island after volcanic eruption

Satellite imagery shows a massive ash cloud and shock waves spreading from the eruption.

A tsunami warning has been issued for the Tonga Islands. Tsunami warnings have also been issued as far as New Zealand’s North Island.

Waves swept across the coastline of Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, on Saturday, spilling onto coastal roads and inundating properties, according to CNN affiliate Radio New Zealand (RNZ).

Tonga’s King Tupou VI was evacuated from the royal palace after the tsunami flooded the capital, RNZ reported, citing local media reports that a convoy of police and soldiers rushed the monarch to a villa in Mata Ki USA.

Residents headed for higher ground, RNZ said, as waves swept across the palace grounds, waterfront and main street.

Ash was falling from the sky in Nuku’alofa on Saturday night and phone connections were down, RNZ said.

The Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano erupted on Friday, sending an ash plume 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) into the air, according to RNZ.

A second eruption struck at 5:26 p.m. local time on Saturday, RNZ reported.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology said it recorded a 1.2 meter (about 4ft) tsunami wave near Nuku’alofa at 5.30pm local time on Saturday.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said 2.7-foot (83 cm) tsunami waves were observed by gauges in Nuku’alofa and 2-foot waves in Pago Pago, the capital of American Samoa, according to Reuters.

Jese Tuisinu, television journalist at Fiji One, job a video on Twitter showing large waves breaking on the shore, with people trying to escape the incoming waves in their vehicles. “It is literally dark in parts of Tonga and people are rushing to safety after the eruption,” he said.

The volcano is located about 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) southeast of the island of Fonuafo’ou in Tonga, according to RNZ.

In addition to the tsunami warning, the Tonga Meteorological Service issued advisories of heavy rain, flash flooding and high winds over land and coastal waters.

The neighboring island of Fiji has also issued a public advisory asking people living in low-lying coastal areas to “get to safety in anticipation of strong currents and dangerous waves”.

A tsunami advisory is also in effect for the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, according to its national disaster management office, with residents urged to move away from the coastline and seek higher ground.

A tsunami watch is in effect for all low-lying coastal areas of Samoa, the Meteorological Service of Samoa said. “All people living in low-lying coastal areas are advised to stay away from beaches,” the agency said, and the public should refrain from visiting coastal areas.

A tsunami advisory has also been issued for coastal areas on the north and east coasts of New Zealand’s North Island and the Chatham Islands, where “unusual strong currents and unpredictable shoreline surges” are expected. , according to New Zealand’s National Emergency Management Agency. .

New Zealand’s official weather service said its weather stations across the country observed “a power surge” on Saturday night following the eruption.

A previous tsunami warning issued for American Samoa has since been cancelled, according to the NWS Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

According to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, there is no tsunami threat to Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands from a “distant eruption.”

The volcano had been active since December 20, but was declared inactive on January 11, according to RNZ.

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