Large Earthquake Strikes Near Tonga, Setting Off Tsunami Warnings

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A shallow, strong earthquake with a magnitude of 7.3 struck in the sea about 130 miles off the coast of Tonga on Friday, setting off tsunami warnings across the Pacific Island region.

The tremor, first reported by the United States Geological Survey, began at 11:48 p.m. local time, at a depth of 15 miles. Tsunami advisories were issued for Tonga, Niue and American Samoa.

Hazardous waves from the earthquake were possible within 300 kilometers, or 186 miles, of the epicenter along the coasts of Niue and Tonga, according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. American Samoa, which is farther north, could also be affected.

In Tonga — which experienced a devastating volcanic eruption that led to a tsunami on Jan. 15 — officials issued an urgent national tsunami warning, advising people to get to the third floor of buildings if they were unable to flee to higher ground. Residents posted photographs online of evacuation centers filling up.

Emergency sirens could be heard wailing in videos posted to social media as residents — on low-lying islands already struggling with rising seas from global warning — pleaded for calm and prayers.

“If I thought I’d never have to relive another Jan. 15th incident, climate change just proved me wrong,” one resident wrote on Twitter, posting a video of cars lined up trying to drive away from the danger. “Please keep Tonga in your prayers.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.


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