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Tonga tsunami warning downgraded after large 7.9 earthquake

A 7.9 earthquake hit Tonga on Friday, triggering a tsunami warning and an immediate evacuation order from the government.

Tonga Meteorological Services initially asked locals to flee to high ground following the earthquake which originated near Vava’u’s capital town Neiafu.

It later said the marine tsunami warning issued earlier for the entire kingdom has now been cancelled.

“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.

Hundreds were evacuated from some coastal areas of Tongatapu. There were reports of traffic gridlock as people tried to reach higher ground.

Reports of the earthquake being strongly felt throughout the kingdom had been shared on Facebook.

The US Geological Survey said the quake was 24.8km deep, 211km from the capital Nuku’alofa and east of south-east of Neiafu.

It comes after geologists in Tonga said recently they were closely monitoring the Fonualei volcano for signs of a major eruption. The volcano is about 350km from Nuku’alofa and 78km from Neiafu

Today’s earthquake and tsunami warnings come 10 months after an atmospheric shockwave caused by the Hunga Tonga – Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption was felt as far away as the UK. The tidal wave caused devastation in Tonga and killed people as far away as South America.