Waves hit Tonga amid tsunami warning following huge volcanic eruption

Date: 2022-01-15 08:41:56

Powerful waves have been seen hitting the shores of Tonga after a tsunami warning was issued for the Pacific nation following underwater volcanic activity.
Satellite footage showed the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano erupting on Saturday evening (local time).

Earlier, the Matangi Tonga news site reported scientists had observed massive explosions, thunder and lightning near the volcano after it started erupting early Friday.

The site said satellite images showed a five-kilometre plume of ash, steam and gas rising into the air to about 20 kilometres.

A satellite image of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai volcanic eruption
A satellite image of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcanic eruption. (Facebook/Tonga Meteorological Services)

Australian authorities are keeping an eye on the situation.

“Tonga is part of our Pacific family and our thoughts are with the entire community dealing with the impact of the volcanic eruption and tsunami,” the government said in a statement on Saturday night.

“The Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs are monitoring the situation and Australia stands ready to provide support to Tonga if requested.

“Initial assessments are still underway and DFAT is working to ensure Australians in Tonga are safe and accounted for. Any Australians concerned about people in Tonga should contact DFAT on 1300 555 135 or +61 2 6261 3305.”

The Tonga Meteorological Services said a tsunami warning had been put in force for all of Tonga.

A Twitter user identified as Dr Faka’iloatonga Taumoefolau posted video showing waves crashing ashore.

“Can literally hear the volcano eruption, sounds pretty violent,” he wrote.

“Raining ash and tiny pebbles, darkness blanketing the sky,” he said in a later post.

Waves hit Tonga during a Tsunami warning
Powerful waves have been filmed hitting Tonga during a Tsunami warning. (Twitter)

According to the US Emergency Alert Twitter page, a “hazardous tsunami” had been created by the eruption, and a tsunami warning had been issued for American Samoa as well.

The US StormWatch account, meanwhile, described the eruption as “one of the most violent” ever captured on satellite.

Fijian TV reporter Jese Tuisinu said on Twitter at 6.40pm (4.40pm AEDT) that Tonga was “literally dark”, sharing a video that showed people trying to reach safe ground.

He also said tsunami waves had begun to reach Fiji, after an emergency warning had been issued in that country as well.

Even further away in New Zealand, officials were warning of storm surges from the eruption.

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.”

Some Lithgow roads were forced to close due to the flooding.

Lithgow hit by flash flooding after sudden downpour

There is no current tsunami threat to Australia.

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