Tsunami hits Tonga after a major underwater volcano eruption

 Tonga has been devastated by tsunami waves generated by a massive undersea volcano explosion.

Water was seen rushing into a church and many residences on social media, while witnesses reported ash was raining over Nuku'alofa, the capital.

Tsunami warnings were issued across the region, prompting locals to flee to higher ground.

The explosion of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haapai volcano was heard all around the South Pacific, including New Zealand and Australia, according to reports.

There is a near-total outage of electricity, phone lines, and internet connections in many sections of Tonga, making information sparse and the extent of any injuries or property damage unknown.

Large traffic bottlenecks were seen in videos posted on social media as residents attempted to evacuate low-lying regions by automobile.

On Tongatapu, Tonga's major island, the capital is only 65 kilometers north of the volcano.

Mere Taufa, a local, claimed the eruption occurred as her family was preparing for supper, and her little brother mistook explosives blasting close for bombs.

"My initial impulse was to take refuge beneath the table, grab my small sister, and scream at my parents and other family members to do the same," she said.

The US West Coast - including California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and British Columbia - could also see strong currents and waves. Volcanologist: "This is a pretty big event - it's one of the more significant eruptions of the last decade".

According to an Australian government official, the prime minister and foreign minister are watching the situation and are ready to give assistance if needed.

Parts of Australia's east coast and Tasmania have been issued with a tsunami warning.
The National Emergency Management Agency of New Zealand, which is almost 2,300 kilometers distant from Tonga, warned that coastal regions on the north and east coasts of the North Island might see "severe and unusual currents and unexpected surges near the beach."

Weather Watch, a local forecaster, tweeted about the eruption, saying, "The energy release is just astonishing," adding, "Reports of people hearing the sonic booms across New Zealand."

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