A tsunami has struck Tonga sending terrified locals fleeing for high ground as huge waves crashed into homes and volcanic ash rained down on residents, as people were warned to get out of the water as far away as Fiji.
A ‘violent’ underwater volcanic eruption at 5.10pm local time on Saturday was confirmed as the cause of the tsunami, which overwhelmed homes, buildings, fences, roads and cars in Tonga around 20 minutes afterwards.
Locals pleaded for people to ‘pray for us’ as the eruption was compared to ‘bombs going off’, followed by the tsunami surging ashore.
The eruption could be heard thousands of kilometres away and sparked warnings in New Zealand, Fiji and American Samoa.
A tsunami has struck Tonga sending terrified locals fleeing for high ground as huge waves crashed over roads and into homes (pictured, tsunami waves begin to overwhelm coastal homes in Tonga on Saturday)
Dramatic footage showed huge waves surging ashore on the populated islands of the Tongan archipelago hours after the eruption.
The Tongan Meteorological Service issued the tsunami warning for the main island of Tongatapu on Saturday evening as sirens rang out across the capital, Nukuʻalofa.
There were also reports of volcanic ash falling in Nukuʻalofa.
Local woman Mere Taufa was preparing for dinner for her family when the biggest eruption shook her home.
‘It was massive, the ground shook, our house was shaking. It came in waves, my younger brother thought bombs were exploding nearby,’ Taufa told
Locals took to social media to share dramatic videos of the surging waves making land and crashing through homes and cars (pictured, still images from video filmed in Tonga and posted to social media on Saturday)
Dramatic official aerial maps showed the eruption cloud over Tonga after the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcanco erupted (pictured, satellite images of the volanic eruption in the Pacific Ocean on Saturday)
She said the home quickly filled with water and she saw the walls of a neighbour’s home collapse.
‘You could just hear screams everywhere, people screaming for safety, for everyone to get to higher grounds.’
Emergency warnings in Tonga ordered locals to move urgently to higher ground.
The Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcanco erupted on Friday sending debris, ash and gas 20 kilometres into the air.
The eruption plunged the nation’s main islands into darkness on Friday.
But the chaos on Saturday came from a second much larger eruption.
It is located about 30 kilometres south-east of Fonuafo’ou island in Tonga and has erupted several times in recent weeks.
The eruption also led to tsunami warnings for Fiji and American Samoa, which are 804 and 936 kilometres away from Tonga.
In Fiji the Mineral Resources Department warned people to ‘stay out of the water and away from beaches’.
One man wrote on social media, ‘We live in Kolomotu’a near the ocean so we have left already and we are in our cars heading out but traffic on every road.
‘Please pray for us as a family and safety.’
An American stormwatchers group called the footage, which quickly went viral online, ‘one of the most violent volcano eruptions ever captured on satellite’.
The Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcanco erupted on Friday and again on Saturday (pictured, waves roll into Tongan homes on Saturday evening after Saturday’s eruption)