WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) – A submarine volcano erupted near the Pacific state of Tonga on Saturday, sending large waves crashing against the coast and people rushing to higher ground.
There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage, as communication with the small nation remained problematic. A video posted on social media shows how big waves are washing the coast in coastal areas and swirling around houses and buildings.
The New Zealand military said it was monitoring the situation and remained on alert, ready to help if requested.
Satellite images showed a huge eruption. The Tonga Meteorological Service said the tsunami warning applied to the whole of Tonga, and data from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center showed that 80-centimeter (2.6-foot) waves were detected.
Authorities in the nearby island states of Fiji and Samoa have also issued warnings and urged people to avoid the coast due to strong currents and dangerous waves. The Japan Meteorological Agency said there could be a slight swell of water along the Japanese coast, but it is not expected to cause any damage.
Islands Business reports that a convoy of police and military units evacuated King Tupo VI of Tonga from his palace near the coast. He was among the many inhabitants who headed to higher positions.
The eruption of Hung Tonga Hunga Ha’apai was the last in a series of spectacular eruptions.
Twitter user identified as Dr. Faka’iloatonga Taumoefolau released a video showing the waves crashing ashore.
“I literally hear the eruption of the volcano, it sounds quite violent,” he wrote, adding in a later post: “It’s raining ashes and small pebbles, darkness covering the sky.”
Earlier, the Matangi Tonga news website said scientists had observed massive explosions, thunder and lightning near the volcano after it erupted early on Friday morning.
The site said the satellite images showed a 5-kilometer (3 mile) wide cloud of ash, steam and gas rising into the air to a height of about 20 kilometers (12 miles).
More than 2,300 kilometers (1,400 miles) in New Zealand, officials warned of storm waves caused by the eruption.
The National Crisis Management Agency said some parts of New Zealand could expect “strong and unusual currents and unpredictable waves off the coast after a major volcanic eruption.”
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said on Saturday that the threat to American Sam had apparently disappeared, although small fluctuations at sea may continue.
The volcano is located about 64 kilometers (40 miles) north of the capital Nuku’alofa. In late 2014 and early 2015, a series of eruptions in the area created a small new island and disrupted international air traffic to the Pacific archipelago for several days.
Tonga is home to about 105,000 people.