(Nuku’alofa) Tonga islanders were fleeing to the heights Saturday in the face of a tsunami caused by a new massive eruption – heard even hundreds of kilometers away – of the Hangunga Tonga Hapai volcano, which also sparked tsunami warnings in the United States and Chile.
Posted at 9:37 am
Updated at 11:11 am
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology announced that “a 1.20m tsunami was seen in Nuku’alofa,” the country’s capital. The previous tsunami did not exceed 30 centimeters. The warning had just been raised when the volcano erupted again.
“It was a huge blast,” 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, the water swept through their house, and she saw the wall of a neighboring house collapse.
The Evacuated King
“We knew right away it was a tsunami, with this water flowing into the house. You could hear screams everywhere, and everyone started fleeing to higher ground.”
King Tubu VI of Tonga has been evacuated from the royal palace in Nuku’alofa and moved to a villa far from 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 have also been issued for Fiji, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia.
Australian authorities have warned people in Sydney and surrounding New South Wales to “get out of the water and stay away from the water’s edge”.
In Chile, the National Emergency Office has warned of the possibility of a “minor tsunami” reaching Easter Island and other Chilean archipelagos.
“As a precautionary measure, in the Juan Fernandez Archipelago, San Felix Islands, Easter Island and Chilean Antarctica, due to a volcanic eruption in the Tonga Islands, it is requested to leave the beach areas that experienced a slight tsunami,” said Onimi.
“Leave the beaches”
In the United States, tsunami warnings have been issued for the country’s west coast, as Hawaii has already been hit by “minor flooding”.
“Leave beaches, ports and marinas” in the areas concerned, recommends the National Weather Service, which specifies to “relief” that the US Hawaiian Islands did not report damage and only suffered small floods.
California, Oregon and Washington states could be affected, as well as Alaska and the Canadian province of British Columbia, the NWS says.
The Bureau of Meteorology warns that “the main impacts expected are strong rip currents and flooding in coastal and low-lying areas.”
Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano is located on one of the uninhabited islands of Tonga, about 65 kilometers from the capital, Nuku’alofa.
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