A Tsunami has struck the West Coast of the United States, with 4ft waves causing flooding in California with the worst of the devastation still yet to arrive, experts fear.
A warning for Hawaii and the Pacific seaboard was issued earlier today after an undersea volcanic eruption near Tonga triggered a 7.4 magnitude earthquake.
Hundreds of frightened Tongans fled to higher ground as the eruption triggered a tsunami in the island nation, with a four-foot wave observed in Tonga’s capital Nuku’alofa.
In Santa Cruz, the video showed significant flooding near the harbor, with at least one vehicle caught in the surge.
Waves of up to 4.1 feet were recorded in Port San Luis, and in El Segundo, a number of daring surfers were spotted defying warnings to catch the powerful waves.
Officials say widespread inundation is not expected, but rather coastal hazards such as rip currents and dangerous waves in harbors. Authorities caution that the first waves to strike may not be the highest waves experienced in an area.
The initial tsunami wave hit Los Angeles around 7.45 am PST (3.45 pm GMT) and San Francisco at 8.10 am PST (4.10 pm GMT) and was expected to last for several hours.
The ‘violent’ underwater volcanic eruption in the Pacific at 5.10 pm local time (4.10 am GMT) – that was visible from space – was confirmed as the cause of the tsunami, which overwhelmed homes, buildings, fences, roads, and cars in Tonga around 20 minutes later.
Locals pleaded for people to ‘pray for us’ as the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption was compared to ‘bombs going off’ by those who heard it, followed by the tsunami surging ashore.
The eruption could be heard thousands of kilometers away and sparked warnings in New Zealand, Fiji, American Samoa, and Australia, with several Australian offshore territories under threat, including Lord Howe Island, Norfolk Island, and Macquarie Island, officials said.
Later, a tsunami advisory was also put into effect for the entire US Pacific seaboard and Hawaii.
‘A tsunami capable of producing strong currents that may be hazardous to swimmers, boats, and coastal structures is expected,’ the US National Weather Service said in a flash bulletin on Saturday morning.
‘If you are located in this coastal area, move off the beach and out of harbors and marinas. Do not go to the coast to watch the tsunami. Be alert to instructions from your local emergency officials,’ the agency warned.
Early on Saturday, Hawaii was already seeing tsunami wave activity of up to 2.7 feet. The advisory now extends from California’s border with Mexico to Attu Island at the tip of Alaska’s the Aleutian Islands.
The tsunami is projected to hit Monterey, California at 7.35 am PST (15:35 GMT), where officials say it is not expected to cause widespread inundation, but rather coastal hazards.
The initial tsunami wave is projected to hit Los Angeles around 7.45 am PST and San Francisco at 8.10 am PST, but the highest water levels may not arrive for several hours.
Satellite images showed a huge eruption lasting around eight minutes, a 3-mile wide plume of ash, steam, and gas rising like a mushroom about 12 above the blue Pacific waters.