Tsunami waves crash onto shore as underwater volcano erupts near Tonga

An undersea volcano erupted dramatically near the peaceful nation of Tonga on Saturday, sending large tsunami waves crashing onto the shore and people rushing for higher ground.

a tsunami advisory was in effect for Hawaii and the US Pacific coast.

There were no reports of injuries or extent of damage as communications with the country remained cut off hours after the eruption.

In Hawaii, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center reported waves lapping the shore, from a foot high at Nawiliwili, Kauai, to two and a half feet at Hanalei.

“We are relieved that no damage was reported and only minor flooding on the islands,” the center said.

In Tonga, video posted on social media showed large waves washing up in coastal areas, swirling around houses and buildings.

The New Zealand military said it was monitoring the situation and remained on standby, ready to help if asked.

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

The Tonga Meteorological Service said a tsunami warning had been declared for the entire archipelago and data from the Pacific Tsunami Center showed two and a half foot waves had been detected.

Residents of American Samoa were alerted to the tsunami warning by radio broadcasters as well as church bells ringing across the territory.

An outdoor siren warning system was out of service. Those who lived along the shore quickly moved to higher ground.

As night fell, no damage was reported and the Hawaii-based tsunami center canceled the alert.

Authorities in the neighboring island nations of Fiji and Samoa have also issued warnings, telling people to avoid the shore due to strong currents and dangerous waves.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said there could be some slight water swelling along Japan’s coasts, but it shouldn’t cause any damage.

The Islands Business news site reported that a convoy of police and military evacuated King Tupou VI of Tonga from his palace near the shore.

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An underwater volcano has dramatically erupted near Tonga (Japan Meteorology Agency/AP)

He was one of many residents heading for the higher ground.

The explosion of the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano was the latest in a series of spectacular eruptions.

A Twitter user identified as Dr Faka’iloatonga Taumoefolau posted a video showing waves crashing on the shore.

“Can literally hear the eruption of the volcano, the sounds are quite violent,” he wrote, adding in a later post, “It’s raining ash and tiny pebbles, darkness covers the sky.”

Earlier, the Matangi Tonga news site reported that scientists observed massive explosions, thunder and lightning near the volcano after it erupted early Friday.

Satellite images showed a three-mile plume rising into the air about 12 miles away.

More than 1,400 miles away in New Zealand, authorities warned of storm surges from the eruption.

The National Emergency Management Agency said parts of New Zealand could expect “unusual strong currents and unpredictable surges on shore following a large volcanic eruption”.

The volcano is located about 40 miles north of the capital, Nuku’alofa.

In late 2014 and early 2015, a series of eruptions in the area created a new small island and disrupted international air travel to the Pacific archipelago for several days.

Tonga is home to approximately 105,000 people.

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