Tonga: Tsunami waves hit the island in the South Pacific after volcanic eruptions

Satellite images show a massive ash cloud and shock waves spreading from the eruption.

A tsunami alert has been issued for the islands of Tonga. Tsunami advisers have also been issued as far away as the North Island of New Zealand.

Waves crossed the coast of Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, on Saturday and flooded coastal roads and flooded properties, according to CNN-affiliated 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, that a convoy of police and troops rushed the monarch to a villa at Mata Ki Eua.

Residents were heading toward higher terrain, RNZ said as the waves washed over the palace area, waterfront and main street.

Ash fell from the sky in Nuku’alofa on Saturday night and telephone connections were down, RNZ said.

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

Another eruption hit Saturday at 5:26 p.m. local time, RNZ reported.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology said it detected a 1.2-meter (about 4 feet) 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 surveyors at Nuku’alofa and 2-foot waves off Pago Pago, the capital of American Samoa, according to Reuters.

Jese Tuisinu, a TV reporter for Fiji One, submitted a video on Twitter showing large waves flushing ashore as people try to escape the incoming waves in their vehicles. “It’s 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 Tonga’s Fonuafo’ou Island, according to RNZ.

Image showing volcanic eruptions from Tonga Meteorological Services, Tonga Government

In addition to the tsunami alert, Tonga’s meteorological services have issued reports of heavy rain, lightning floods and strong winds in rural and coastal waters.

The nearby island of Fiji has also issued a public statement urging people living in low-lying coastal areas to “move to safety in anticipation of the strong currents and dangerous waves.”

A tsunami alert is also in effect for the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, according to its National Disaster Management Office, with residents being advised to move away from the coast and seek higher terrain.

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

A tsunami alert has also been issued for coastal areas on the north and east coasts of New Zealand’s North Island and the Chatham Islands, where “strong and unusual currents and unpredictable waves off the coast” are expected, according to the New Zealand National Aid Agency.

New Zealand’s official weather service said their weather stations across the country had observed “a pressure rise” Saturday night from the eruption.

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

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

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


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