Tonga residents flee tsunami after volcanic eruption

The eruption of an underwater volcano off the Tonga Islands triggered a tsunami warning on Saturday in several archipelagos of the Pacific Ocean, with meter-high waves reported. Panicked, the residents took refuge in the heights.

A tsunami with waves of 1.20 meters in height was observed in Nuku’alofa, the capital of the Tonga Islands, on Saturday, January 15. This phenomenon was caused by a new massive eruption of an underwater volcano, Hong Tonga – Hong Hapai, heard hundreds of miles away.

The previous tsunami warning, no more than 30 cm, was lifted when the volcano erupted again. “It was a massive explosion,” local resident Meri Tova, who was in the house at the time, told the Stuff news site.

“The ground shook, the whole house shook. It came in waves. My younger brother thought bombs were exploding near our house.

After a few minutes, their house was swept away by the water, and she saw the wall of a nearby house collapsing. “We knew right away it was a tsunami, with this water flowing into the house. You could hear screams everywhere, and everyone started running to higher ground.”

Call to get away from the beaches

King Tubu VI of Tonga was evacuated from the royal palace in Nuku’alofa and moved to a villa off the coast. Fiji officials said the blast lasted eight minutes and was so loud that it was heard “like distant thunder” over the Fiji islands, more than 800 km away.

They also warned residents not to cover the water supply to protect them from acid rain or ash.

Victoria Keough, of the Tonga Public Utilities Commission, called on people to “keep away from all places at risk, namely beaches, coral reefs and all the flat coasts”.

The authorities have also advised all residents to stay indoors as much as possible, wear masks if they have to go outside, and protect all water supplies there as well.

Tsunami warnings were issued for Fiji, Samoa and New Zealand.

Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai is located on one of the uninhabited islands of Tonga, about 65 kilometers from the capital, Nuku’alofa.

With Agence France-Presse and Reuters

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