Inhabitants of the Tonga islands fled to the heights on Saturday before the tsunami caused by a new eruption – heard hundreds of kilometers – from the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano.

"A 1.20 m tsunami was observed in Nuku’alofa", the capital of the small archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, announced the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

The previous tsunami had not exceeded 30 cm. And the alert had just been lifted when the volcano erupted again.

"It was a massive explosion"A resident, Mere Taufa, who was at home preparing dinner, explained to the news site Stuff. "The ground shook, the whole house was shaken. It came in waves. My younger brother believed that bombs were exploding near our house", counted.

A few minutes later, the water invaded his house, and he saw the wall of a neighboring house fall. "We knew immediately that it was a tsunami, with the water that gushed into the house. Screams were heard everywhere, and everyone began to flee towards the heights", he added.

The Tonga King Tupou VI was evacuated from the royal palace in Nuku’alofa and taken to a villa far from the coast.

The eruption lasted eight minutes, and was so strong that it was heard "like distant thunder" in the Fiji Islands, more than 800 km away, Fijian officials said.

They also warned residents to cover water reservoirs to protect them from rain or acid ash.

Victorina Kioa of the Tonga Public Service Commission called on people to "stay away from all threatened locations, i.e. beaches, reefs and all flat shorelines".

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