Jan 15 (Reuters) – An underwater volcano off Tonga erupted on Saturday triggering a tsunami warning for several South Pacific island nations, with footage on social media showing waves crashing into homes.
Tsunami waves were observed in Tonga’s capital and the capital of American Samoa, a U.S.-based tsunami monitor said.
The eruption at 0410 GMT of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai underwater volcano, located about 65 km (40 miles) north of Nuku’alofa, caused a 1.2 metre tsunami, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said.
The agency said it continued to monitor the situation but no tsunami threat had been issued to the Australian mainland, islands or territories.
Tsunami waves of 2.7 feet (83 cm) were observed by gauges at the Tongan capital of Nuku’alofa and waves of 2 ft at Pago Pago, the capital of American Samoa, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.
Fiji issued a tsunami warning, urging residents to avoid the shorelines “due to strong currents and dangerous waves.”
Jese Tuisinu, a television reporter at Fiji One, posted a video on Twitter showing large waves washing ashore, with people trying to flee from the oncoming waves in their cars. “It is literally dark in parts of Tonga and people are rushing to safety following the eruption,” he said.
The U.S.-based monitor later cancelled the warning for the U.S. territory of American Samoa.
Tsunami waves measuring 2 feet in height were observed by sea-level gauges at the capital of the U.S. territory of American Samoa following volcanic activity in Tonga, the U.S. monitor said.
The tsunami threat continues and sea level fluctuations and strong ocean currents pose hazards along beaches in harbours, it said.
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.
On Friday, the volcano sent ash, steam and gas up to 20 km (12 miles) into the air, Tonga Geological Services said in a Facebook post. It has a radius of 260 km (160 miles).
(Reporting by Jahnavi Nidumolu and Shubham Kalia in Bengaluru, and Renju Jose in Sydney; Editing by William Mallard and Muralikumar Anantharaman)
Photo – A handout image captured by NOAA’s GOES-17 satellite and made available by the Regional and Mesoscale Meteorology Branch (RAMMB) of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)/NESDIS shows an explosive eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano, located in the South Pacific Kingdom of Tonga, 15 January 2022. The eruption on 15 January, the second in only two days, was the latest in a series of eruptions from the undersea volcano. According to a Public Notice from the Tonga Geological Services monitoring the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai (HTHH) issued on 15 January 2022, satellite images captured on the day indicated that the volcanic eruption continued, with ash plume emission. EPA-EFE/RAMMB/NOAA/NESDIS HANDOUT —