People flee to higher ground after the massive volcanic eruption triggers the area’s second tsunami in as many days.
The Pacific nation of Tonga issued a tsunami warning after an undersea volcano erupted on Saturday, sending large waves crashing across the shore and people rushing to higher ground.
There were no immediate reports of injuries or the extent of the damage as communications in the island nation – home to about 100,000 people – remained down. Videos posted on social media showed large waves washing ashore in coastal areas, swirling around homes and buildings.
Tonga Meteorological Services said the tsunami warning was in effect for all of Tonga.
New Zealand’s military said it was monitoring the situation and remained on standby, ready to assist if asked.
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. He was among many residents headed for higher ground.
The latest eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano came just a few hours after Friday’s tsunami warning was lifted.
A Twitter user called Dr Faka’iloatonga Taumoefolau posted a 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 observed massive explosions, thunder and lightning near the volcano after it started erupting early on Friday.
The site said satellite images showed a 5km-wide (3-mile) plume of ash, steam and gas rising into the air to about 20km (12 miles).
The eruption was so intense it was heard as “loud thunder sounds” in Fiji more than 800km (500 miles) away, officials in Suva said. Authorities in nearby Fiji also issued a warning, telling people to avoid the shoreline due to strong currents and dangerous waves.
More than 2,300km (1,400 miles) away in New Zealand, officials warned of storm surges from the eruption.
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.
The National Emergency Management Agency said some parts of New Zealand could expect “strong and unusual currents and unpredictable surges at the shore following a large volcanic eruption”.
Late on Saturday, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the threat to American Samoa appeared to have passed, although minor sea fluctuations could continue.
The volcano is located about 64 km (40 miles) north of the Tongan capital, Nuku’alofa. Back in late 2014 and early 2015, a series of eruptions in the area created a small new island and disrupted international air travel to the Pacific archipelago for several days.