Pacific nations and humanitarian groups struggled to establish communications with Tonga on Sunday after a tsunami triggered by a massive volcanic eruption cut telephone and internet connections, raising concerns for the tiny island nation.
An underwater volcano off Tonga erupted on Saturday, triggering tsunami warnings and evacuation orders on the shores of Tonga as well as several South Pacific islands, where footage on social media showed waves crashing into coastal homes.
Internet and phone lines went down at about 6.40pm local time on Saturday (5.40am UK), leaving the 105,000 residents on the islands virtually uncontactable.
The eruption also triggered tsunami warnings on the US west coast and hundreds of thousands of Japanese citizens were advised to evacuate on Sunday as waves of more than a metre hit coastal areas, public broadcaster NHK reported.
Around 230,000 people were advised to evacuate across eight prefectures due to the tsunami risk. The alert included areas hit by the deadly 2011 tsunami.
Ten boats were capsized in Kochi prefecture on Shikoku island in southern Japan, NHK said, and Japan Airlines cancelled 27 flights at airports across the country.
“The images of the volcanic eruption in close proximity to Tonga are hugely concerning,” Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, located about 1,481 miles from Tonga, said in a statement on Instagram.
“Communication as a result of the eruption has been difficult, but our defence force team and Ministry of Foreign Affairs are working as we speak to establish what’s needed and how we can help,” she said.