The underwater volcano Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai erupted in the early hours of Saturday, sending huge waves smashing into homes as frightened residents went to higher ground
Terrifying satellite images show the moment an underwater volcano off Tonga erupted and one Tsunami warning for a number of South Pacific island nations.
The underwater volcano Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai erupted at 5:10 p.m. local time on Saturday, causing huge waves that smashed into houses.
Frightened residents said it was dark in parts of Tonga after the eruption, and locals fled to safety for fear of being swept away by oncoming waves.
One woman spoke of preparing dinner for her family as the outbreak rocked her home, while another revealed that he carried his grandmother to the roof of their home to escape.
The eruption of the volcano, which is about 40 miles north of Nuku’alofa, caused a 1.2 meter high tsunami, the Australian Meteorological Bureau said.
Satellite images over Tonga show the moment the volcano erupted, sending huge shock waves across the island.
According to the Matangi Tonga news site, satellite imagery showed a plume of ash, steam and gas three miles wide that rose about 12 miles into the air.
Jese Tuisinu, a TV reporter for Fiji One, posted a video on Twitter showing large waves washing ashore and people trying to flee the oncoming waves in their cars.
“It’s literally dark in parts of Tonga and people are rushing to safety following the outbreak,” he said.
The tsunami warning applies to all of Tonga, according to Tonga Meteorological Services, while authorities in nearby Fiji also issued a warning, urging people to avoid the shoreline due to strong currents and dangerous waves.
Local media reported that a convoy of police and military troops evacuated Tonga’s King Tupou VI from his palace near the coast as residents headed for higher ground.
Twitter user Dr. Faka’iloatonga Taumoefolau posted a video showing waves breaking ashore.
“Can literally hear the volcano erupting, sounds pretty intense,” he wrote, adding in a later post, “It’s raining ash and tiny pebbles, darkness covers the sky.”
A meteorologist claimed he had never seen anything as frightening as the Tonga eruption, with reports of “raining” ash from the sky, darkness and “roaring noises”.
The tsunami threat continues and sea level fluctuations and strong ocean currents pose hazards along beaches in ports, the tsunami monitor said in a statement.
The Tonga Meteorological Service said a tsunami warning was in effect for all of Tonga.
The New Zealand National Emergency Management has also issued a national alert on tsunami activity following the Tonga eruption.
Many took to social media after the tsunami and said: “So the loud bang I heard was the volcanic eruption in Tonga and not thunder. I live in Fiji. Stay safe Tonga.”
One said it was raining “ash and tiny pebbles” while “darkness covered the sky”.
One expert added: “As a meteorologist, I have seen many things about satellites. Nothing was as scary as this volcanic eruption in Tonga.”