Underwater volcano erupts in Pacific, triggers tsunami warnings
An underwater volcano off Tonga erupted on Saturday, triggering a tsunami warning for several South Pacific island nations, with footage on social media showing waves crashing into homes.
Tsunami waves were observed in Tonga’s capital and the capital of American Samoa, a U.S.-based tsunami monitor said.
The eruption at 0410 GMT of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai underwater volcano, located about 65 km (40 miles) north of Nuku’alofa, caused a 1.2 metre 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 of 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 U.S.-based monitor later cancelled warnings for the U.S. territory of American Samoa and Hawaii, but said the tsunami remained a threat for parts of the Pacific nearer the volcano.
Fiji issued a tsunami warning, urging residents to avoid the shorelines “due to strong currents and dangerous waves.”
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).