Tonga issues tsunami warning after submarine eruption

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Tonga, an island nation in the Pacific Ocean, issued a tsunami warning Saturday after an undersea volcano erupted.

Videos posted on social networks showed a large wave in coastal areas.

The tsunami alert affected the entire country, the Tonga Meteorological Services said. In nearby Fiji, authorities have asked people to avoid approaching the coast due to strong currents and dangerous waves.

The Islands Business website reported that a convoy of police and army troops evacuated Tonga’s King Tupou VI from his palace near the coast. The monarch was one of many residents who left for higher ground.

Saturday’s eruption was the latest in a series of spectacular eruptions from the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano.

On Twitter, a user identified as Dr. Faka’iloatonga Taumoefolau posted a video of waves crashing onto the shore.

“I can literally hear the volcano erupting, it sounds quite violent,” he wrote. In another post later he said: “Ash and small stones are raining, darkness covers the sky.”

Earlier, the Matangi Tonga news website reported that scientists had observed massive explosions, thunder and lightning near the volcano after the eruption began on Friday.

Satellite images showed a 5-kilometer (3-mile) wide cloud of ash, steam and gas rising into the air up to about 20 km (12 miles), the website added.

More than 2,300 km (1,400 miles) away, New Zealand authorities warned of possible storm surge from the eruption.

The National Emergency Management Agency explained that parts of New Zealand could experience “unusual strong currents and unpredictable coastal swells following a major volcanic eruption.”

Separately, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said late Saturday that the threat to American Samoa appeared to have passed, although small fluctuations in the sea could continue.

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