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Tsunami Warning Issued for all of Tonga

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Parts of New Zealand are now also under tsunami warning after a violent eruption of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai underwater volcano in Tonga this afternoon.

The warning for the north and east coast of the North Island and the Chatham Islands came a short time ago from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

It warned people in those areas that they might experience strong and unusual currents and unpredictable surges at the shore.

People are being urged to stay away from beaches and shore areas until 4am tomorrow, but there’s no need to evacuate other areas unless directly advised by local civil defence authorities.

Coastal inundation is not expected.

A tsunami warning was issued for the whole of Tonga just after 5.30pm by the Tonga Meteorological Services.

Waves have hit the main island, Tongatapu, including its capital, Nuku’alofa.

It’s dark now in Nuku’alofa and ash is falling and people can see lightning in the ash clouds.

Phone connections are down and it’s been difficult for people to get through.

The eruption, between 5:20pm and 5:28pm, caused windows to rattle, houses to shake and ash was in the wind.

The Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai underwater volcano on Friday, when it started to become very active. Photo: Tonga Geological

Tidal waves crossed the Nuku’alofa shoreline and coastal roads and flooded properties.

Meanwhile, waves have hit Samoa’s Savaii. More than 100 families have been evacuated in Palauli and Satupaitea after a huge wave struck the coastline, damaging homes.

RNZ Pacific‘s Moera Tuilaepa-Taylor said this morning the volcano was semi-active but not spewing as much ash. She spoke to both the Tonga Meteorological Service and the Tonga Geological Service and both organisations reported much less activity today.

“Obviously things changed quite quickly.”

Around 5.30pm people were posting to Facebook that sirens were ringing out across the capital, Nuka’alofa, and police were warning people to move to higher ground or stay in their houses. The geological service told people to wear masks because there was ash in the air and not long after that waves started hitting Nuka-alofa.

She said the volcano is about 65km from the main island of Tongatapu.

It had a serious eruption on December 20 and has been active up to January 11. It then became very active again yesterday.

“Yesterday’s eruption was seven times bigger than the one on 20 December,” she said, citing information from the geological service.

She said families in New Zealand would be trying to ring their relatives back home in Tonga but communication was difficult.

Waves looked “pretty big” on footage she had seen on social media, she said.

Samoa is about a three-hour flight away and she wouldn’t be surprised if it was also affected by the latest eruption.

She didn’t expect New Zealand to be affected.

More to come




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