Tonga: Huge volcanic eruption triggers tsunami warnings and turns sky dark

Tsunami waves measuring two feet in height were generated in American Samoa after volcanic activity in Tonga, a US-based Pacific tsunami monitoring centre has said.

Tonga issued a tsunami warning after an undersea volcano erupted in the Pacific nation on Saturday.

The Tonga Meteorological Services issued the warning in all of Tonga and said a tsunami warning had been put in force for all of Tonga.

In a statement, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Honolulu said that “a tsunami was generated by this earthquake. And based on all available data, there is a threat to American Samoa of sea-level fluctuations and strong ocean currents that could be a hazard along beaches, in harbours and in coastal waters.”

It also said that the centre is monitoring the tsunami threat.

Among the recommended actions, it said that “persons in or near the ocean along the coasts of all of American Samoa should move immediately out of the water and away from beaches and harbours.”

The volcanic eruption on Saturday is the latest in a series of eruptions from the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano in the region.

The Pacific tsunami warning centre also warned that any persons in the ocean should get out of water.” And that “persons near the ocean should move away from beaches and harbours.”

It also asked residents not to return to the evacuated areas until the all-clear is given by local authorities.

Meanwhile, authorities said that there was a 7.4 magnitude earthquake.

On Twitter, a user named Dr Faka’iloatonga Taumoefolau posted a video showing waves crashing ashore. He said: “Can literally hear the volcano eruption, sounds pretty violent.” In another post, he said: “Raining ash and tiny pebbles, darkness blanketing the sky.”

Earlier, Matangi Tonga had reported that scientists had observed massive explosions, thunder and lightning near the volcano after it started erupting on Friday. It said that the satellite images showed a 5-kilometre-wide plume of ash, steam and gas rising up into the air to about 20 kilometres.

In 2009, two large earthquakes struck midway between Samoa and American Samoa and those earthquakes generated tsunami waves of up to 22 metres —72 feet — killing at least 192 people —149 in Samoa, 34 in American Samoa, and 9 in Niuatoputapu, Tonga, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.