Sydney, Australia, Jan 15 (EFE).- A tsunami hit the coast of the island of Tonga in the South Pacific on Saturday following a giant underwater volcanic eruption.
Large waves flooded houses and buildings on the beachfront and quickly washed through the area, as seen on footage posted to social media networks by witnesses who had taken refuge on the roofs of their houses.
Local authorities have issued a tsunami warning for the entire island nation following the eruption of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai submarine volcano.
The volcano is located some 65 km (nearly 40 miles) from the island of Tongatapu, the main island in Tonga, and has some 71,000 inhabitants.
According to witnesses, the volcano erupted at 5.20 PM local time (4:20 GMT) and ejected a huge plume of ash into the air, Radio New Zealand reported.
Tsunami warnings have also been issued in Fiji, where the waves reached the island of Vanua Levu, in the northeast. Samoan authorities have also issued a tsunami alert.
“We expect New Zealand coastal areas on the north and east coast of the North Island and the Chatham Islands to experience strong and unusual currents and unpredictable surges at the shore,” New Zealand’s National Emergency Management Agency warned.
The Tonga Meteorological Service published a shocking satellite image of a massive ash cloud caused by the underwater volcano.
Authorities have urged residents in Tonga to move to higher ground and to wear masks as protection from the toxic gasses oozing from the volcano. EFE