Strong eruption of an underwater volcano in the South Pacific generated a tsunami

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After an underwater volcano in the South Pacific exploded in a violent eruption on Saturday, seen in satellite imagery, a tsunami has hit Tonga’s largest island, Tongatapu, with waves flooding into the capital. A tsunami warning has been issued. The plumes of gas, smoke and ash pouring from the volcano reached 20km into the sky, Tonga Geological Services said.Tonga’s King Tupou VI was evacuated from the Royal Palace. Many properties in Tongatapu were flooded. Phone connections were down. Many parts of Tonga are experiencing a near-total blackout of power. The Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano, which is in a known area of seismic activity, first erupted Friday. A second eruption hit on Saturday at 5:26 p.m. local time. There were no immediate reports of injuries or the extent of the damage. The volcano is located about 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) southeast of Tonga’s Fonuafo’ou island.

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Authorities in the nearby island nations of Fiji and Samoa also issued warnings. Tonga’s Meteorological Services also have issued advisories for heavy rain, flash flooding and strong winds. A tsunami advisory is now in effect for the US west coast including the states of California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska. Strong warnings from the National Weather Service Seattle was issued for the US Pacific Coast Saturday. Scientist Emily Lane, of New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, declared it was a “very significant” eruption. A spokesperson for the Australian government, said the prime minister and minister for foreign affairs are monitoring the situation and ready to provide support on request.