Tsunami observed in American Samoa after Tonga volcano erupts

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - PAGO PAGO, American Samoa, Jan 15 — An underwater volcano off Tonga erupted today triggering a tsunami warning for several South Pacific island nations, with footage on social media showing waves crashing into homes.

Tsunami waves were observed in Tonga’s capital and the capital of American Samoa, a US -based tsunami monitor said.

The eruption at 0410 GMT of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai underwater volcano, located about 65 km north of Nuku’alofa, caused a 1.2 metre tsunami, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said.

The agency said it continued to monitor the situation but no tsunami threat had been issued to the Australian mainland, islands or territories.

Tsunami waves of 83 cm were observed by gauges at the Tongan capital of Nuku’alofa and waves of 2 ft at Pago Pago, the capital of American Samoa, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.

Fiji issued a tsunami warning, urging residents to avoid the shorelines “due to strong currents and dangerous waves.”

Jese Tuisinu, a television reporter at Fiji One, posted a video on Twitter showing large waves washing ashore, with people trying to flee from the oncoming waves in their cars. “It is literally dark in parts of Tonga and people are rushing to safety following the eruption,” he said.

The US-based monitor later cancelled the warning for the US territory of American Samoa.

Tsunami waves measuring 2 feet in height were observed by sea-level gauges at the capital of the US territory of American Samoa following volcanic activity in Tonga, the US monitor said.

The tsunami threat continues and sea level fluctuations and strong ocean currents pose hazards along beaches in harbours, it said.

New Zealand’s emergency management agency issued an advisory on tsunami activity for its north and east coasts with the areas expected to experience strong and unusual currents, and unpredictable surges at the shore.

Yesterday, the volcano sent ash, steam and gas up to 20 km into the air, Tonga Geological Services said in a post. It has a radius of 260 km. — Reuters

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