Tsunami-hit Tonga has remained largely uncontactable due to telephone and internet links being severed.

An underwater volcano off Tonga erupted yesterday, triggering warnings of 1.2-metre tsunami waves and evacuation orders on the shores of the island and several others in the South Pacific.

The eruption caused internet and phone lines to go down at about 6.40pm local time on Saturday, leaving the 105,000 residents on the islands virtually uncontactable to people in other nations.

So far, there are no official reports of injuries or deaths in Tonga.

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Tidal waves hit Tonga

However, communications are limited and so contact has not been made with coastal areas beyond the capital Nuku’alofa.

Tonga is located 2,383 kilometres (1,481 miles) northeast of New Zealand.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said: “Nuku’alofa is covered in thick plumes of volcanic dust but otherwise conditions are calm and stable.

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“We have not yet received news from other coastal areas.”

Ms Ardern later said the main undersea communications cable was affected, most likely because of the loss of power.

However, the Prime Minister also said power was being restored in some areas on the islands and local mobile phones were slowly starting to work.

Satellite images captured the volcanic eruption on Saturday as the explosion sent plumes of smoke into the air and about 12 miles above the sea level.

Concerns were also growing among the Tongan community in New Zealand, who were desperate to make contact with their families back home.

Maikeli Atiola, the Secretary of the Wesleyan Church of Tonga in Auckland, said: “We pray God will help our country at this sad moment. We hope everybody is safe.”

Sanya Ruggiero is a Consulting Communications Advisor based in Suva, the capital of Fiji, some 750 kms from Tonga.

He said: “My entire house was shaking.

“My doors, windows were all rattling like hell. And mine was not even as bad as others. Hundreds of people ran out of their homes,” said Ruggiero, who consults for several agencies including the United Nations.

Rumblings and eruptions from the volcano continued to be heard through the night, Ruggiero said. Hundreds of people were moved to evacuation centres in Suva. Fiji Airways had to cancel all its flights due to the ash clouds.

“This is the worst disaster Tonga has had in living memory and the recovery from this is going to take years,” Ruggiero said.

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