Tonga: Rush to safety after undersea volcano eruption triggers tsunami warning

15 January 2022, 09:43 | Updated: 15 January 2022, 10:36

White gaseous clouds rising from the Hunga Ha'apai eruption
White gaseous clouds rising from the Hunga Ha'apai eruption. Picture: (Photo by Mary Lyn FONUA / AFP) (Photo by MARY LYN FONUA/AFP via Getty Images)

By Will Taylor

An undersea volcano's eruption in Tonga has caused people to flee to safety as a tsunami warning was issued.

The Pacific country's meteorological service issued an alert for the entire nation, which spans more than 100 islands.

Video shows people rushing to get to safety, the sea engulfing buildings and large waves crashing into the shore.

King Tupou VI was evacuated from his palace, near the shore, by a convoy of military and police personnel, the Islands Business news site said.

Social media users posted footage of a loud bang, describing it as an eruption, while a Tongan news site said scientists observed explosions, thunder and lighting near the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha'apai volcano when it began erupting, while satellite images showed ash, steam and gas gathering in a plume that stretched for three miles.

"Can literally hear the volcano eruption, sounds pretty violent. Stay safe everyone," said Dr Faka’iloatonga Taumoefolau on Twitter.

Posted by Potungaue Koloa Fakaenatula on Friday, January 14, 2022

"Raining ash and tiny pebbles, darkness blanketing the sky."

Nearby Fiji has told people to stay away from the coast because of strong currents and dangerous waves, while New Zealand officials – 1,400 miles away – warned of storm surges following the volcanic eruption.