THIS is the horror moment a massive underwater volcano erupted off the coast of Tonga sparking a terrifying tsunami.
Waves of 2.7ft swept through the streets of the Pacific nation as locals scrambled to higher ground after the “violent” eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano.
There were no immediate reports of injuries or the extent of the damage after the island of 105,000 people was plunged into darkness from the eruption.
Footage posted on social media showed large waves crashing ashore in coastal areas, swirling around homes and buildings.
New Zealand’s military said it was monitoring the situation and remained on standby and ready to assist the nation.
Horrifying satellite images from space showed the huge eruption, which lasted at least eight minutes and sent plumes of gas, ash and smoke several kilometres into the air.
The Tonga Meteorological Services said a tsunami warning was in effect for all of Tonga as the island’s capital lies just 65km north of the volcano.
Authorities in the nearby island nations of Fiji and Samoa also issued urgent warnings, telling people to avoid the shoreline due to strong currents and dangerous waves.
The explosion of the volcano was the latest in a series of spectacular eruptions.
One Twitter user posted a video showing waves crashing ashore.
He said: “Can literally hear the volcano eruption, sounds pretty violent. Raining ash and tiny pebbles, darkness blanketing the sky.”
Tongan resident Mere Taufa said the eruption hit as her family was preparing for dinner, and her younger brother thought bombs were exploding nearby.
She told New Zealand news site Stuff.co.nz: “My first instinct was to take cover under the table, I grabbed my little sister, and screamed at my parents and others in the house to do the same.”
Taufa said the next thing she knew, water was rushing into their home.
“You could just hear screams everywhere, people screaming for safety, for everyone to get to higher ground,” she said.
Tonga’s King Tupou VI was reported to have been evacuated from the Royal Palace in Nuku’alofa and taken by a police convoy to a villa away from the coastline.
The Matangi Tonga news site said scientists had seen massive explosions, thunder and lightning near the volcano after it started erupting early on Friday.
The site said satellite images showed a three-mile wide plume of ash, steam and gas rising up 12 miles into the air.
More than 1,400 miles away in New Zealand, officials warned of storm surges from the eruption.
The National Emergency Management Agency said some parts of New Zealand could expect strong and unusual currents and unpredictable surges at the shore following the large volcanic eruption.