King evacuated as thousands flee for higher ground at Mataki’eua and Fualu height

    Residents in Tongatapu are facing long lines of traffic as thousands evacuate to Mataki’eua and Fualu height in the central south of the main island.

    Footage taken by locals and shared  on Facebook showed traffic is crawling along Taufa’āhau Road near Tofoa following a huge eruption at Hunga Ha’apai Hunga Tonga.

    People in eastern Nuku’alofa have been urged to move to Pili and Sia ‘a Tevolo.

    King Tupou VI has been evacuated from the Royal Palace after a tsunami wave flooded Nuku’alofa today, a report by Fiji’s Island Business Media on its official Facebook page said.

    “A convoy of police and troops rushed the King to the villa at Mataki’eua as residents headed for higher ground”, it said.

    “Earlier, a series of explosions were heard as an undersea volcano erupted throwing clouds of ash into the sky.

    “The explosions were heard on Lakeba, Matuku and in Fiji’s capital, Suva, around 6pm.

    King Tupou VI Photo/File photo

    Fiji has been placed on tsunami alert after waves generated by the volcano inundated Nuku’alofa, flooding the Palace grounds, waterfront and the main street”, it said.

    Reports and photos shared on Facebook showed sea flooded ‘Eua island and it sank ships and boats at Nafanua wharf.

    His Majesty’s Armed Forces has called on reservists to assist with Defence’s response to the evacuations.

    A tsunami warning was issued for the whole of Tonga just after 5.30pm by the Tonga Meteorological Services.

    It came shortly after locals in Tongatapu reported “deafening” explosions of a volcanic eruption this afternoon. They also reported stones pouring down on Tongatapu.

    Our correspondent in Tonga Patimiosi Ngūngūtau shared a photo of sea waves flowing inland.

    He described the deafening sound as “weird”.

    “It was a rain of small black stones and black ashes”, he said.

    Ngūngūtau said ash not only covered vehicle screens but their impact sounded like they could break the screens.

    He said they have evacuated to Liahona at the central south.

    Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni has warned locals to take care on the road.

    He also warned people to avoid trying to take a bath in the rain in fear that it could contain toxic acids from the volcanic activities.

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