A tsunami warning has been issued for the Tonga Islands and parts of Japan. Tsunami warnings have also been issued for the North Island of New Zealand and the west coast of the United States from California to Alaska, as well as British Columbia in Canada.
Satellite images show a massive ash cloud and shock waves spreading from the eruption.
Waves crossed the coastline of Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, on Saturday, rolling on coastal roads and inundating property, according to CNN’s Radio New Zealand (RNZ).
RNZ, citing local media reports, reported that a convoy of police and troops rushed the king to a villa in Mata Ki Iwa, the sixth King of Tonga Tubu was evacuated from the royal palace.
RNZ said residents headed to higher ground as waves swept across the palace grounds, waterfront and main street.
RNZ said ash was falling from the sky in Nuku’alofa on Saturday evening and the phone was lost.
The Hunga-Tonga-Hongga-Hapai volcano erupted for the first time on Friday, sending a plume of ash 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) into the air, according to RNZ.
A second eruption struck Saturday at 5:26 p.m. local time, RNZ reports.
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology said it recorded a 1.2-meter (about 4 feet) high tsunami near Nuku’alofa at 5:30 p.m. local time on Saturday.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center reported tsunami waves as high as 2.7 feet (83 cm) by gauges in Nuku’alofa and waves as high as two feet in Pago Pago, the capital of American Samoa, Reuters reported.
The volcano is located about 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) southeast of Funuafu island in Tonga, according to RNZ, and about 65 kilometers (40 miles) north of Nuku’alofa.
In addition to the tsunami warning, Tonga’s meteorological services have issued warnings of heavy rain, flash floods and strong winds in land and coastal waters.
The nearby island of Fiji has also issued a public warning telling people living in low-lying coastal areas to “move to safety in anticipation of strong currents and dangerous waves”.
The Samoa Meteorological Service said a tsunami watch was in effect in all low-lying coastal areas of Samoa, with residents and visitors advised to stay away from beach areas.
The Japan Meteorological Agency has issued a tsunami warning for southern Amami Island and the Tokara island chain in Kagoshima Prefecture and a tsunami warning for all coastal areas facing the Pacific Ocean, public broadcaster NHK reported. “Three-meter tsunami waves are expected to reach Japan following an undersea volcanic eruption off the Pacific nation of Tonga,” NHK said.
Warning to the United States
The Pacific Tsunami Warning tweeted that no damage has been reported so far from the tsunami observed in the Hawaiian Islands.
“Tsunami is currently being monitored by the emergency department of all islands. We are relieved that there were no reports of minor damage and flooding across the islands,” the agency wrote on Twitter.
Adam Weintraub, director of communications for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, told CNN that while the island did see some water in low-lying areas, there were no reports of loss of life or any “notable damage” from the tsunami. He did not specify which areas were subjected to slight flooding.
Weintraub said the effects are equivalent to “the height of King Tide.” “There was some flooding in parking lots and port areas, but it was a disturbing flood,” Weintraub said, adding that the authority is monitoring any developments.
“We saw the wave moving across the Hawaiian Islands,” Dave Snyder, the center’s tsunami warning coordinator at the National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, told CNN.
Current observations indicate that the wave height is one to two feet and is heading towards the Pacific coast of the mainland United States. The estimated time of arrival along the California coast was 7 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. PT.
Speaking on the phone, Snyder noted, “We don’t have a really good forecast because this event is based on a volcano, not an earthquake.”
Snyder notes that this is a current, not a tsunami warning, in effect for the west coast of the United States.
However, the National Weather Service in Seattle urged caution along the US Pacific coast on Saturday. NWS Seattle tweeted: “Stay off shore and out of ports and marinas in these areas.”
“Strong currents and larger waves are possible along these coastal areas. The first wave may not be the largest,” the agency continued, adding that larger waves could continue to hit the coast for hours after the first wave.
“Continue to stay off-water and offshore along coastal areas and continue to monitor updates,” the agency said.
New Zealand on alert
A tsunami warning was also issued for coastal areas on the north and east coast of New Zealand’s North Island and the Chatham Islands, where “strong, unusual currents and unexpected shore surges” are expected, according to New Zealand’s National Emergency Management Agency.
The official New Zealand Met Office said its weather stations across the country had observed a “pressure rise” on Saturday night due to the eruption.
Scientist Emily Lin, of New Zealand’s National Water and Atmospheric Research Institute, told New Zealand’s Science Information Center that the eruption was “very significant”.
She said: “The shock wave resulting from it is clearly visible in the satellite images and there are reports of the eruption of the volcano heard, at least in places as far away as New Zealand.” “The tsunami from the explosion reached more than 2,500 km recorded on measuring instruments across Aotearoa.”
Lin said volcanic tsunamis are much less common than underwater earthquake tsunamis.
Lin added that a smaller eruption in late 2014/early 2015 created the crater above the water’s surface, but it’s not yet clear exactly how Hang-Tonga-Hong-Hapai erupted on this occasion. “When we see what’s left of the island after this eruption is over, we can start to piece together the pieces of what happened,” she said.
Professor Shane Cronin, from the University of Auckland’s School of Environment, told New Zealand Science Media that research into historical eruptions by the same volcano suggests that the current eruption cycle could last for weeks or months “and that other eruptions of similar size to the January 15 event 2022”.
“The volcanic eruption is likely to cause large amounts of ash (centimeter to 10 centimeters) to fall in Tongatapu as well as the Hapai island group,” he said. “Help will be needed to restore the supply of drinking water. The people of Tonga must also remain vigilant for more eruptions especially tsunamis with short notice and they must avoid low-lying areas.”
A previous tsunami warning issued for American Samoa has since been rescinded, according to the NWS Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.
According to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, there is no risk of a tsunami over Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands from a “long-range eruption.”
The volcano was active as of December 20, but was declared dormant on January 11, according to RNZ.
CNN’s Dave Allsopp, Jennifer Hauser, and Halle Brink contributed to this report.