The violent eruption of an underwater volcano near Tonga, in the South Pacific, caused a tsunami that has hit the coasts of this island nation and has also set off alarms in other countries in the region. “Waves of about 1.2 meters have been recorded in Nuku’alofa”, the capital of Tonga, with 24,500 inhabitants, the Australian Meteorological Service reported on Twitter.
The local authorities of Tonga, with some 71,000 inhabitants, have not reported any victims at the moment, while local media warn that several areas of the country remain incommunicado.
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The Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai submarine volcano, located about 65 kilometers north of the Tongan island of Tongatapu, recorded an eruption of about eight minutes around 5:20 p.m. local time (4:20 GMT) and released a huge column of ash kilometers high.
The violent explosion was recorded in images taken by satellites, published by the Meteorological Service of the American island of Hawaii.
About 15 minutes later, the fierce onslaught of the waves hit the houses and buildings located on the first line of the north coast of Tongatapu, according to videos posted on social media by witnesses, some of whom took refuge on the roof of their homes.
Another of the recordings shows at least five people, including children, sheltered in a local church just as the water begins to hit the windows of the religious compound.
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A driver caught the sudden rise of the waters in his flight, which was destroying walls and fences, while another car tried to avoid being caught by traveling in reverse.
The Radio New Zealand station reports panic scenes where people try to flee to inland areas.
The Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai It already registered an increase in activity on Friday that temporarily triggered another alert of tsunami, but that did not translate into rising waters.
In the current emergency Tongan authorities have asked the entire population to stay away from the beaches and coastal lines until 4:00 p.m. on Sunday (3:00 GMT) and the use of a mask before the ash rain.
Unlike tsunamis triggered by earthquakes, where tectonic plates unload their force and a second tsunami is unlikely, the volcano could again register a violent eruption that would create another ferocious tidal wave.
In addition to in Tonga, the neighboring island states of Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu have also issued a tsunami warning, which threatens as far as the coast of New Zealand, more than 2,300 kilometers away from the volcano.
More than 100 families from two towns on the Samoan island of Savaii have been evacuated, police say, while photos posted on social media show waves have hit part of Vanua Levu Island in northeastern Fiji.
Vanuatu authorities called for “immediate evacuation” of coastal areas due to strong currents and waves.
“Destructive tsunami waves estimated between 1 and 2.5 meters have been observed on some of our islands in Vanuatu. Tsunami waves are expected to remain possible along the coasts of all Vanuatu islands through tonight.”, the Vanuatu Meteorological and Geological Hazards Department said in a statement when confirming the arrival of waves in Port Vila and Litzlitz.
For its part, the New Zealand Emergency Management Agency indicated on Twitter that they expect “strong currents and unusual unpredictable swells” on the north and east coast of the North Island and the Chatham Islands of the oceanic country.
The Australian Meteorological Service estimated, after ruling out a tsunami alert for hours, that a large wave could hit coastal areas in the east and southeast of the country, from the state of Queensland to the island of Tasmania.
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