The Hunga-Tonga- Hunga-Ha’apai underwater volcano eruption yesterday evening was felt on the island where residents on the western side of the island described ‘explosion like booms’ sounds. Houses shaking and tremors were felt in homes on the southwestern side of the island at around 5.30 pm yesterday.
A resident of Tamakautonga on the south-western coast took this picture of the eruption from the coast of the village just after 7pm last night.
As the news of the Tonga explosion reached the island from families in Nukualofa, the residents at Alofi started preparing for an evacuation but there was no tsunami warning issued for Niue.
Chief of Police Tim Wilson from the National Disaster Management Office told BCN News that they were already on standby for tsunami alerts from New Zealand but there were no warnings for Niue.
Despite there being no threat of a tsunami impacts for Niue, locals were not leaving anything to chance. At Avatele and Alofi canoes were uplifted to higher ground.
Meanwhile, members of the local Tongan community are very concerned for their families and friends in the Kingdom with communications down since after 6pm last night.
Seini Vailea and her husband have been in Niue for three years when she was recruited by the government as a schoolteacher. Ms Vailea says that she is very concerned for her family who are on the main island Tongatapu. She told BCN News this morning that she is very concerned for them because they live around the coast.
“Yes, very concerned, our families are on the main island Tonga, some living in the Nukualofa area and around the island next to the coastal waters. So praying that they are okay and would get updates from them soon” says Ms Vailea.
The Nemaia family of Alofi South are also concerned for their sister Karen Fukofuka who is with her husband and their youngest daughter in Tongatapu. They told BCN news this morning that they were in communication with Karen yesterday afternoon as the eruptions began while they were evacuating to higher grounds but haven’t heard anything further since last night.
Communications from Tonga have been down since last night with RNZ reporting a power outage in the main capital Nukualofa.
The Niue National Disaster Management Office is urging the locals to be calm as they continue to monitor the situation: “We are asking everyone to remain calm. We are monitoring and keeping in contact with our other counterparts in the region”.
The NDMO is warning the public to stay away from sea and coastal areas, with sea tracks closed until further notice as conditions are unpredictable.
Tonga is Niue’s closest island neighbour located just over 600 km or 375 miles to the west of Niue.