WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — An undersea volcano erupted in spectacular fashion near the Pacific nation of Tonga on Saturday, sending large tsunami waves crashing across the shore and people rushing to higher ground. A tsunami advisory was in effect for Hawaii, Alaska and the U.S. Pacific coast, with reports of waves pushing boats up in the docks in Hawaii.
There were no immediate reports of injuries or the extent of the damage because all internet connectivity with Tonga was lost at about 6:40 p.m. local time — about 10 minutes after problems began, said Doug Madory, director of internet analysis for the network intelligence firm Kentik.
Tonga gets its internet via an undersea cable from Suva, Fiji, which presumably was damaged. The company that manages that connection, Southern Cross Cable Network, could not immediately be reached for comment.
In Hawaii, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center reported waves slamming ashore from half a meter (1.6 feet) in Nawiliwili, Kauai, to 80 centimeters (2.7 feet) in Hanalei. “We are relieved that there is no reported damage and only minor flooding throughout the islands,” the center said, describing the situation in Hawaii.
On Tonga, home to about 105,000 people, video posted to social media showed large waves washing ashore in coastal areas, swirling around homes and buildings, including a church. Satellite images showed a huge eruption, a plume of ash, steam and gas rising like a mushroom above the blue Pacific waters.
New Zealand’s military said it was monitoring the situation and remained on standby, ready to assist if asked.
The Tonga Meteorological Services said a tsunami warning was declared for all of the archipelago, and data from the Pacific tsunami center showed waves of 80 centimeters (2.7 feet) had been detected.
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 video showing waves crashing ashore.
“Can literally hear the volcano eruption, sounds pretty violent,” he wrote, adding in a later post: “Raining ash and tiny pebbles, darkness blanketing the sky.”
In Hawaii, Alaska and along the U.S. Pacific coast, residents were asked to move away from the coastline to higher ground and pay attention to specific instructions from their local emergency management officials, said Dave Snider, tsunami warning coordinator for the National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska.
The first waves to hit the continental United States were measured at about 30 centimeters (1 foot) in Nikolski, Atka and Adak, Alaska. The wave was about 20 centimeters (.7 feet) at Monterey, California, the U.S. National Tsunami Warning Center said in a tweet.
The National Weather Service said there are reports of waves pushing boats in Hawaii. Sea level fluctuations were also beginning in Alaska and California, according to the National Tsunami Warning Center.
Beaches and piers were closed across Southern California as a precaution but the National Weather Service tweeted there were “no significant concerns about inundation.” Strong rip currents were possible, however, and…