Terrifying Tonga Volcano Eruption Triggers Tsunami, Alarms South Pacific

An underwater volcano just off Tonga erupted on Saturday, triggering tsunami sounding alarms nations across South-Pacific, with footage on social media showing waves crashing into homes.

Terrifying Tonga Volcano Eruption Triggers Tsunami, Alarms South Pacific
Image Courtesy: USStormWatch /Twitter

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The latest eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano came just a few hours after a separate Friday tsunami warning was lifted due to the eruption.

Tsunami waves were witnessed in Tonga’s capital and the capital of American Samoa, a U.S.-based tsunami monitor said.

At 0410 GMT, the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai underwater volcano, located about 65 km (40 miles) north of Nuku’alofa, caused a 1.2-meter (4-ft) tsunami, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said.

The agency said it continued to monitor the situation but no tsunami threat had been issued to the Australian mainland, islands or territories.

Tsunami waves towering over 2.7 feet (83 cm) were observed by gauges at the Tongan capital of Nuku’alofa and waves of 2 ft at Pago Pago, the capital of American Samoa, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre issued a “tsunami advisory” for American Samoa, saying there was a threat of “sea level fluctuations and strong ocean currents that could be a hazard along beaches”.

Fiji issued a tsunami warning, urging residents to avoid the shorelines “due to strong currents and dangerous waves.”

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The eruption was so intense it was heard as “loud thunder sounds” in Fiji more than 800 kilometres (500 miles) away, officials in Suva said.

Jese Tuisinu, a television reporter at Fiji One, posted a video on Twitter showing large waves washing ashore, with people trying to flee from the oncoming waves in their cars.

“It is literally dark in parts of Tonga and people are rushing to safety following the eruption,” he said.

New Zealand’s emergency management agency issued an advisory on tsunami activity for its north and east coasts with the areas expected to experience strong and unusual currents, and unpredictable surges at the shore.

On Friday, the volcano sent ash, steam and gas up to 20 km (12 miles) into the air, Tonga Geological Services said in a Facebook post. It has a radius of 260 km (160 miles).

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Honolulu said a tsunami advisory remains in effect for the U.S. state of Hawaii, where tsunami waves were reported early Saturday morning.

The center also said tsunami advisories are in place for Attu island in western Alaska and along the California-Mexico border.

Similar warnings were issued by authorities in New Zealand, Vanuatu and Australia, where authorities said a swathe of coastline including Sydney could be hit by tsunami waves.

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