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The volcano erupts in the Pacific, West Coast under tsunami advice




An underwater volcano has erupted spectacularly near the nation of Tonga in the Pacific, sending huge tsunami waves crashing along the coast and people rushing to higher ground

There were no immediate reports of injuries or severe damage as communication with the small nation remained disrupted for several hours after the blast.

In Hawaii, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center reported that the waves hit the shore from half a meter (one foot) in Nawiliwili, Kauai, to 80 centimeters (2.7 feet) in Hanalei.

We are relieved that there is no reported damage and only minor flooding across the islands, the center said.

In Tonga, a video posted on social media showed large waves bathing ashore in coastal areas, circling around houses and buildings.

The New Zealand Army said it was monitoring the situation and remained on alert, ready to assist if required.

Satellite images showed a huge explosion, a plume of ash, steam and gas rising like a mushroom over the blue waters of the Pacific.

Tonga Meteorological Services said a tsunami alert had been issued for the entire archipelago, and data from the center of the Pacific tsunami showed that 80-centimeter (2.7-foot) waves had been detected.

Residents of American Samoa were alerted to the tsunami warning by local broadcasters, as well as church bells that rang across the territory. An external siren warning system was out of order. Those who lived along the coastline quickly moved to higher ground.

As night fell, there were no reports of damage and the Hawaii-based tsunami center canceled the alarm.

Authorities in the nearby island states of Fiji and Samoa also issued warnings, urging people to avoid the coastline due to strong currents and dangerous waves. The Japan Meteorological Agency said there could be a slight bounce of water along the Japanese coast but it was not expected to cause any damage.

The Islands Business news site reported that a column of police and military troops evacuated King Tupou VI of Tonga from his palace off the coast. He was among the many residents who set off for a higher area.

The eruption of Hunga Tonga volcano Hunga Haapai was the latest in a series of spectacular eruptions.

A Twitter user identified as Dr. Taumoefolau posted a video showing the waves crashing ashore.

He can literally hear the volcano erupting, it sounds quite violent, he wrote, adding in a later post: It’s raining ash and small pebbles, darkness covering the sky.

Earlier, news site Matangi Tonga reported that scientists observed massive eruptions, thunder and lightning near the volcano as it began to erupt early Friday. Satellite images showed a plume 5 kilometers (3 miles) wide rising in the air at about 20 kilometers (12 miles).

More than 2,300 miles (1,400 miles) away in New Zealand, officials were warning of storm surges from the blast.

The National Emergency Management Agency said some parts of New Zealand could expect strong and unusual currents and unpredictable waves ashore after a major volcanic eruption.

The volcano is located about 64 kilometers (40 miles) north of the capital, Nukualofa. In late 2014 and early 2015, a series of eruptions in the area created a small new island and disrupted international air travel in the Pacific archipelago for several days.

Tonga is home to about 105,000 people.

Associated Press writers Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo and Fili Sagapolutele in Pago Pago, American Samoa, contributed to this report.




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