Tonga issues tsunami warning after undersea volcano erupts in Pacific

Large waves crashed ashore in Tonga on Saturday after a volcanic eruption, heard in neighbouring countries, triggered the area’s second tsunami in as many days. 

A ‘violent’ underwater volcanic eruption at 5.10pm local time on Saturday was confirmed as the cause of the tsunami, which overwhelmed homes, buildings, fences, roads and cars in Tonga around 20 minutes later.

Locals pleaded for people to ‘pray for us’ as the eruption was compared to ‘bombs going off’, followed by the tsunami surging ashore.

The eruption could be heard thousands of kilometres away and sparked warnings in New Zealand, Fiji and American Samoa.  

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Dramatic official aerial maps showed the eruption cloud over Tonga after the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcanco erupted (pictured, satellite images of the volanic eruption in the Pacific Ocean on Saturday)

‘A 1.2 metre tsunami wave has been observed at Nukualofa,’ Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology tweeted. The maximum tsunami wave recorded following Friday’s explosion was 30 centimetres.  


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The Tonga Meteorological Services said the tsunami warning was in effect for all of Tonga. 

The eruption was so intense it was heard as ‘loud thunder sounds’ in Fiji more than 500 miles away, officials in Suva said. 

Authorities in Fiji also issued a warning, telling people to avoid the shoreline due to strong currents and dangerous waves. 

Victorina Kioa of the Tonga Public Service Commission said Friday that people should ‘keep away from areas of warning which are low-lying coastal areas, reefs and beaches.’

The head of Tonga Geological Services Taaniela Kula urged people to stay indoors, wear a mask if they were outside and cover rainwater reservoirs and rainwater harvesting systems.

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.’

Locals took to social media to share dramatic videos of the surging waves making land and crashing through homes and cars

Locals had little warnings as the huge waves came ashore


The Islands Business news site reported that a convoy of police and military troops evacuated Tonga’s King Tupou VI from his palace near the shore as residents headed for higher ground.

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

A Twitter user identified as Dr Faka’iloatonga Taumoefolau posted video showing waves crashing ashore.

‘Can literally hear the volcano eruption, sounds pretty violent,’ he wrote, adding in a later post: ‘Raining ash and tiny pebbles, darkness blanketing the sky.’

Earlier, the Matangi Tonga news site reported that scientists had observed massive explosions, thunder and lightning near the volcano after it started erupting Friday.

The site said satellite images showed a three-mile-wide plume of ash, steam and gas rising about 12 miles into the air.

More than 1,400 miles away in New Zealand, officials warned of storm surges from the eruption.

The National Emergency Management Agency said some parts could expect ‘strong and unusual currents and unpredictable surges at the shore following a large volcanic eruption’.

Late on Saturday, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said the threat to American Samoa appeared to have passed, although minor sea fluctuations could continue. 

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