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The eruption of an underwater volcano off the Tonga Islands triggered a tsunami warning on Saturday in several Pacific archipelagos, where waves reaching a meter high were reported. Panicked, the inhabitants took refuge on the heights.
A tsunami with waves reaching 1.20 meters high was observed in Nuku’alofa, in the capital of the Tonga islands, on Saturday January 15 The phenomenon was caused by a new massive eruption of an underwater volcano, the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai, heard hundreds of miles away.
The alert for a previous tsunami, which had not exceeded 30 cm, had just been lifted when the volcano erupted again. “It was a massive explosion,” resident Mere Taufa, who was at home at the time, told the Stuff news site.
“The ground shook, the whole house shook. It was coming in waves. My younger brother thought bombs were going off near our house,” she said.
A few minutes later, the water invaded their house, and she saw the wall of a neighboring house crumble. “We knew straight away it was a tsunami, with this water gushing into the house. You could hear screams all around, and everyone started fleeing to higher ground,” she added. .
Call to get away from the beaches
King Tupou VI of Tonga was evacuated from the royal palace of Nuku’alofa and taken to a villa far from the coast. The eruption lasted eight minutes, and was so loud it was heard “like a distant thunderous sound” over the Fiji Islands, more than 800 km away, Fiji officials said.
They also warned residents to cover water supplies to protect them from acid rain or ash.
Victorina Kioa, of the Tonga Public Utilities Commission, called on people to “get away from all places that are at risk, that is beaches, reefs and all flat coasts”.
The authorities have also advised the entire population to stay indoors as much as possible, to wear masks if they have to go out and, there too, to protect all water supplies.
Tsunami warnings have also been issued for Fiji, Samoa and New Zealand.
Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai is located on one of the uninhabited islands of Tonga, about 65 km from the capital Nuku’alofa.
With AFP and Reuters