A large earthquake hit Tonga on Friday, triggering a tsunami warning and an immediate evacuation order from the government of the island nation.
The government initially asked locals to flee to high ground following what it said was a 7.9 magnitude earthquake originating near the town of Neiafu, on the island of Vava’u, before downgrading the alert and urging the public to take “special caution.”
“Based on tide gauge observation in Tonga, a tsunami wave of 10 centimeters was recorded in Neiafu, Vava’u, 6 centimeters in Niuatoputapu and 5 centimeters recorded in Nuku’alofa tide gauge at 1 a.m. this morning,” the government declared in its latest statement.
Due to the tsunami wave being less than 1 foot, “it is expected that these tsunami waves will only affect our coastlines at this point of time,” it said.
However, ocean currents around marine coastal areas “may be strong and erratic and special caution should be exercised,” the statement warned.
The government also advised the public to stay away from low lying coastal areas, beaches and harbor areas, adding that people should avoid swimming and any related activities until the warning is canceled.
The earthquake occurred at a depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) about 200 kilometers (124 miles) east of Neiafu, according to the government.
The United States Geological Survey (USGA) said Friday a 7.3 magnitude earthquake had been detected 211 kilometers east of Neiafu, Tonga.
Earlier this year, Tonga was hit by a record-breaking eruption from an underwater volcano, which released a huge plume of ash, gas and steam up to 20 kilometers into the atmosphere and sent tsunami waves rolling across the Pacific.
The main island, Tongatapu, suffered significant damage from the tsunami and was smothered in a thick layer of ash.
At least two deaths were reported at the time.