A tsunami alert has been issued for Australia after an undersea volcano in the Pacific Ocean erupted, creating havoc. Videos showed massive waves washing ashore in coastal areas. Social media footage showed water washing through a church and several homes, and witnesses said ash was falling over the capital, Nuku'alofa.
The violent eruption at the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai underwater volcano was also captured from space by satellites orbiting earth on Friday. The volcano is located about 30 kilometres south-east of Fonuafo'ou island in Tonga and the eno0rmity of the volcano can be gauged from the photos.
Force of Nature
The Tonga Meteorological Services said a tsunami warning had been put in force for all of Tonga. The eruption on Saturday was the latest in a series of spectacular eruptions from the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha'apai volcano. The Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre has also issued an urgent alert that dangerous waves will start to affect Australia from 9.45pm on Saturday and that residents should move back from the water's edge.
Videos on social media showed huge waves lashing the shores of Nuku'alofa, which is just 65km north of the volcano, on the country's main island of Tongatapu. Terrified locals have already started fleeing Tonga as volcanic ash rained from the sky and tsunami waves tore apart homes.
Residents have already been warned and advised to leave the water and move to higher ground from as far away as Fiji. Australia joined Tonga, New Zealand, Fiji and American Samoa in issuing tsunami warnings after the "violent" eruption of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai volcano, 30km from the Tongan archipelago.
The alert comes after the huge underwater volcanic eruption Pacific Ocean on Friday. Spectacular images of the eruption were captured by NOAA's (the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) GOES West satellite, an Earth-orbiting probe, which shows the volcanic eruption.
The volcano was so immense that it was not only visible from space but also resulted in a 7.4 magnitude earthquake, which further escalates the chances of a major tsunami. The Australian warning was for a vast stretch of coastline from southern Queensland to Tasmania with the threat to the mainland centered around waterways where coastal flooding could occur.
In this imagery from GOES West, ash plume and gravity waves rippling outward from the eruption can be seen. So far, the eruption has stretched to have a radius of over 161 miles (260 km), according to NOAA.
As of now, residents in Tonga are keeping their fingers crossed. Locals pleaded for people to "pray for us" as the eruption was compared to "bombs going off", followed by the tsunami surging ashore.
According to one of the survivors of the huge waves, she saw the houses of her neighbors collapsing as she was sitting down with his family for diner. Another man told how he desperately fled the rising torrent while carrying his grandmother to the roof of their home.
According to reports, the volcano could be heard thousands of miles away and sparked warnings in New Zealand, Fiji and American Samoa. Tonga, officially named the Kingdom of Tonga is a Polynesian country. It is the only remaining Indigenous monarchy in the Pacific islands.
The Pacific island nation is surrounded by Fiji and Wallis and Futuna (France) to the northwest; Samoa to the northeast; New Caledonia (France) and Vanuatu to the west; Niue (the nearest foreign territory) to the east; and Kermadec (New Zealand) to the southwest. Tonga is about 1,100 miles (1,800 kilometers ) from New Zealand's North Island.