Tsunami waves caused by a giant underwater volcanic eruption have hit the Pacific country of Tonga. Footages that surfaced on social media showed water washing through a church and several homes, and witnesses said ash was falling over the capital, Nuku’alofa.
Meanwhile, a tsunami warning sent residents scrambling to higher ground. The eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haʻapai volcano was heard across the South Pacific.
The Associated Press reported that there were no immediate reports of injuries or the extent of the damage as communications with the small nation remained problematic.
New Zealand’s military said it was monitoring the situation and remained on standby, ready to assist if asked.
Satellite images showed a huge eruption, a plume of ash, steam and gas captured from the space rising like a mushroom above the blue Pacific waters.
The Tonga Meteorological Services said a tsunami warning was in effect for all of the archipelago, and data from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center showed waves of 80 centimeters (2.6 feet) had been detected.
Authorities in the nearby island nations of Fiji and Samoa also issued warnings, telling people to avoid the shoreline due to strong currents and dangerous waves. The Japan Meteorological Agency said there may be a slight swelling of the water along the Japanese coasts, but it is not expected to cause any damage.
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 the many residents who headed for higher ground.
The explosion of the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano was the latest in a series of spectacular eruptions.
(With inputs from The Associated Press)