Get away from shore – US and Japan warn on tsunami

An underwater volcano off Tonga erupted on Saturday, triggering tsunami warnings and evacuation orders in Japan and causing large waves in several South Pacific islands, where footage on social media showed waves crashing into coastal homes.

The eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haʻapai volcano was heard across the South Pacific, and eventually as far away as the US.

Many parts of Tonga, whose capital is just 65km (40 miles) south of the eruption, are covered in ash and are experiencing a near-total blackout of power, phone lines and internet services. The extent of any injuries or damage is still unclear.

Social media footage showed water washing through a church and several homes, and witnesses said ash was falling over the capital, Nuku’alofa.

Los Angeles county officials issued an advisory for residents to “move out of the water, off the beach” and to stay away from the shore until officials indicate it is safe, the LA Times reported.

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

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.

A spokesperson for the Australian government said the prime minister and minister for foreign affairs were monitoring the situation and ready to provide support on request.

A tsunami warning has been issued for parts of Australia’s east coast and Tasmania.

In New Zealand, which is more than 2,300km away from Tonga, the National Emergency Management Agency said coastal areas on the north and east coast of the North Island could see “strong and unusual currents and unpredictable surges at the shore”.

Local forecaster Weather Watch tweeted about the eruption: “The energy release is simply astonishing”, adding: “Reports of people hearing the sonic booms across New Zealand.”


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