Thu. Jan 20th, 2022

People, including Tonga’s king, have fled coastal areas after a submarine volcano erupted near the Pacific nation.

The Pacific nation of Tonga issued a tsunami warning on Saturday after an underwater volcano erupted, and video posted on social media shows large waves washed ashore in coastal areas.

Tonga Meteorological Services said the tsunami warning is effective for the whole of Tonga. Authorities in nearby Fiji have also issued a warning urging people to avoid the coastline due to strong currents and dangerous waves.

The Islands Business news website reported that a convoy of police and military troops had evacuated Tonga’s King Tupou VI from his palace near the coast. He was among many inhabitants on their way to higher ground.

The eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano was the latest in a series of spectacular eruptions.

A Twitter user named Dr Faka’iloatonga Taumoefolau posted a video showing waves crashing ashore.

“Can literally hear the volcanic eruption sound pretty violent,” he wrote, adding in a later post: “Rain ash and small pebbles, darkness covering the sky.”

The Matangi Tonga news website reported earlier that scientists had observed massive explosions, thunderstorms and lightning near the volcano after it started erupting early Friday.

The website said satellite images of a 5 km-wide (3-mile) plume of ash, steam and gas rising into the air to about 20 km (12 miles).

More than 2,300 km (1,400 miles) away in New Zealand, officials have warned of storm surges from the eruption.

The National Emergency Management Agency said some parts of New Zealand could expect “strong and unusual currents and unpredictable eruptions off the coast after a major volcanic eruption”.

Late Saturday, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the threat to American Samoa appeared to be over, though minor sea fluctuations could continue.

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