Former Fiji reporter in Tonga describes escape from eruption fallout

A former Fijian journalist said he could hear explosions and saw black clouds of smoke in the sky, followed by abnormal tidal movements and large waves after the eruption of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai yesterday.

The underwater volcano erupted at 5.26pm yesterday, sending ash, steam and gas up to 20km into the air. It sent shockwaves around the world and put many countries around the Pacific on high alert for tsunamis or surges, including in New Zealand.

In the video translated by The Fiji Times, Iliesa Tora said his family and others on Tonga’s main island – Tongatapu – were advised to move to higher ground by local authorities.

“An explosion erupted from underneath the sea near Ha’apai and we were given a tsunami warning,” he added.

“All the roads in Nuku’alofa have been busy as authorities try to move us to a safer place.”

Tora said rocks showered through the area while they drove to safety.

“Small rocks from the volcanic eruption started to fall like rain as a result of what had happened.”

The Fiji Times reported that in Fiji, villagers of Narikoso on Kadavu fled for safety to elevated areas on the island yesterday after tidal waves crashed into the village.

Village spokesman Kelepi Saukitoga told The Fiji Times that they were hit by three tidal waves.

He said the whole village was underwater.

“It was shocking and the villagers were terrified,” he said.

“We had to chase the children and everyone in the village to higher grounds for safety. Everyone was terrified of the events that transpired this afternoon [Saturday].”

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