Tongans flee tsunami as volcanic eruption triggers South Pacific warnings

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Scared Tongans fled to higher ground on Saturday after a massive volcanic eruption – heard in neighboring countries – triggered tsunami warnings in the South Pacific.

“A 1.2 meter tsunami wave was observed in Nuku’alofa,” the Australian Bureau of Meteorology tweeted.

The latest eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano came just hours after a tsunami warning was lifted on Friday due to the eruption.

Mere Taufa said she was at home getting ready for dinner when the volcano erupted.

“It was huge, the ground shook, our house shook. It came in waves. My younger brother thought bombs were exploding nearby,” Taufa told the Stuff news site.

She said water filled their house minutes later and she saw the wall of a nearby house crumble.

“We knew straight away it was a tsunami. Just water gushing into our house.

“You could just hear screams everywhere, people screaming for safety, for everyone to get to the high ground.”

King Tupou VI of Tonga was reportedly evacuated from the royal palace in Nuku’alofa and taken by a police convoy to a villa far from the coast.

The initial eruption lasted at least eight minutes and sent plumes of gas, ash and smoke several miles into the air.

Residents of coastal areas were urged to head for higher ground.

#Tonga 🇹🇴 #tsunami alert issued for all islands following the massive eruption of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai underwater volcano

Heed the warnings 🙏. Video: ht Dr. Faka’iloatonga Taumoefolau @sakakimoana, project coordinator for the Tonga Parliament Buildings project pic.twitter.com/29UbZiLckR

– 🚶🏻Curtis S. Chin (@CurtisSChin) January 15, 2022 The eruption was so intense it was heard as “loud thunder” in Fiji more than 800 kilometers (500 miles) away, officials said. officials in Suva.

Fijian authorities have warned residents to cover water collection tanks in the event of acid rain.

Victorina Kioa of Tonga’s Civil Service Commission said on Friday that people should “steer clear of warning areas which are low-lying coastal areas, reefs and beaches”.

Tonga Geological Survey chief Taaniela Kula urged people to stay indoors, wear a mask if outdoors and cover rainwater tanks and rainwater harvesting systems. rainwater.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a “tsunami advisory” for American Samoa, saying there was a threat of “sea level fluctuations and strong ocean currents that could pose a hazard along beaches”.

Similar warnings have been issued by authorities in New Zealand, Fiji, Vanuatu and Australia – where officials said parts of the coastline, including Sydney, could be hit by tsunami waves.

Residents of the surrounding New South Wales state were “advised to get out of the water and away from the immediate water’s edge”.

The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano sits on an uninhabited island about 65 kilometers (40 miles) north of the Tongan capital Nuku’alofa.

(AFP)

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