By NICK PERRY, Associated Press
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The peaceful nation of Tonga issued a tsunami warning on Saturday after an undersea volcano erupted, and video posted to social media showed large waves crashing into coastal areas.
The Tonga Meteorological Services said the tsunami warning was in effect for all of Tonga. Authorities in neighboring Fiji have also issued a warning, telling people to avoid the shore due to strong currents and dangerous waves.
The Islands Business news site reported that a convoy of police and military evacuated King Tupou VI of Tonga from his palace near the shore. He was one of the many inhabitants who headed for the heights.
The explosion of the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano was the latest in a series of spectacular eruptions.
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A Twitter user identified as Dr Faka’iloatonga Taumoefolau posted a video showing waves crashing on the shore.
“Can literally hear the eruption of the volcano, the sounds are quite violent,” he wrote, adding in a later post, “It’s raining ash and tiny pebbles, darkness covers the sky.”
Earlier, the Matangi Tonga news site reported that scientists observed massive explosions, thunder and lightning near the volcano after it erupted early Friday.
The site said satellite images showed a 5 kilometer (3 mile) wide plume of ash, steam and gas rising into the air about 20 kilometers (12 miles).
More than 2,300 kilometers (1,400 miles) away in New Zealand, authorities warned of storm surges from the eruption.
The National Emergency Management Agency said parts of New Zealand could expect “unusual strong currents and unpredictable surges on shore following a large volcanic eruption”.
Late Saturday, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the threat to American Samoa appeared to have passed, although minor sea fluctuations may continue.
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