Volcano erupts near Tonga, islanders run to escape the waves

A volcano erupted under the sea near the Pacific nation of Tonga on Saturday, causing huge waves to crash into the coast and people fleeing to higher ground.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or the extent of damage as communication with the small nation remained problematic.

Videos posted on social media showed huge waves moving around homes and buildings in coastal areas.

The New Zealand military said it was monitoring the situation and was on standby, ready to assist if asked.

Satellite images showed a huge explosion. Tonga Meteorological Services said a tsunami warning is in effect for the whole of Tonga.

Officials in the nearby island nations of Fiji and Samoa also issued warnings, asking people to avoid shorelines due to strong currents and dangerous waves.

The island trade news site reported that a convoy of police and military soldiers escorted King Taupo VI of Tonga from his palace near the shore. He was among the many residents who headed to the higher ground.

Hunga Tonga The eruption of the Hunga Haapai volcano was the latest in a series of spectacular eruptions.

A Twitter user identified as Dr. Fakaylotonga Toumoflau posted a video showing the waves crashing on the shore.

“Can actually hear the volcanic eruption, sounds very violent,” he wrote in a later post: “Rain ash and small pebbles, the sky is dark.”

Earlier, the Matangi Tonga news site reported that scientists saw massive eruptions, thunder and lightning after the volcano erupted early on Friday.

Satellite images show a 5-kilometre (3-mile)-wide plume of ash, steam and gas rising about 20 kilometers (12 miles) into the air, the site said.

More than 2,300 kilometers (1,400 mi) away in New Zealand, officials were warning of a storm surge from the eruption.

The National Emergency Management Agency said parts of New Zealand can expect “strong and unusual currents and unexpected surges along the coast following a large volcanic eruption”.

Late Saturday, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the threat to American Samoa had passed, although minor sea fluctuations could continue.

The volcano is located approximately 64 kilometers (40 mi) north of the capital Nuku’alofa.

In late 2014 and early 2015, a series of eruptions in the area created a small new island and disrupted international air travel to the Pacific Islands for several days.

Tonga is home to approximately 105,000 people.

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