Sunday, January 16, 2022

Tonga suffers tsunami after underwater volcano erupts while residents flee to higher ground

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Social media footage shows waves crashing through homes and streets near the coast of the Pacific nation of Tonga

Tsunami waves have hit the Pacific nation of Tonga after an underwater volcano erupted on Saturday.

Social media footage shows riders fleeing waves crashing through a fence, while another video shows a church and surrounding homes engulfed in water.

The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haʻapai volcano is 40 miles from Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, but its eight-minute eruption was heard nearly 500 miles away in Fiji as a “loud thunderous noise,” according to officials in its capital, Suva.

A nationwide tsunami warning was issued by the Tonga Meteorological Services after the eruption as civilians rushed to higher ground.

Tonga resident Mere Taufa said she and her family were preparing for dinner when they heard and felt the eruption.

She told the New Zealand news website things: “It was tremendous. The ground shook, our house shook. It came in waves. My younger brother thought there were bombs going off nearby.”

Ms. Taufa ducked under the table and urged her family to do the same, but the water quickly began to fill her home.

“We know immediately that it was a tsunami. Just waste pouring into our home,” she said.

“Screams could be heard everywhere, people screaming for safety, for everyone to go to a higher level.”

Police and military forces reportedly evacuated Tonga’s King Tupou VI. from his residence near the coast when he and other residents fled the coast.

Forecasting company Weather Watch said on Twitter, “The energy release is simply amazing.”

The Fijian government has also issued a tsunami warning and opened evacuation centers, while New Zealand officials have warned of storm surges despite being over 1,400 miles away.

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