Tsunami wave hits Tonga’s ‘Eua royal palace gate as vehicles try to flee

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The video of the tsunami wave crashing into the gate of the Heilala Tangitangi royal palace in ‘Eua. Video: Kaniva Tonga

By Kalino Latu in Auckland

Tonga’s King Tupou VI is reportedly still on ‘Eua island despite reports yesterday that he had been evacuated to the royal villa at Mataki’eua in Tongatapu.

The latest information about his presence in ‘Eua came last night after terrifying footage was shot of a tsunami wave crashing into the gate of the Heilala Tangitangi royal palace in ‘Eua.

In the video, which was sent to Kaniva News, a man can be heard saying: “It’s now 5.54 pm”.

A vehicle being swept away by the tsunami wave on 'Eua
A vehicle being swept away by the tsunami wave on ‘Eua island in Tonga yesterday. Video: Kaniva News screenshot APR

“There, you see the wave is on its way to ‘Ohonua’,” he said in Tongan.

“Hang on, I will run, otherwise the wave will catch me,” he said.

“Those of you who have already been to ‘Eua look at how the wave breaks on the Matapā Tapu [Taboo Gate of the royal palace].

“Look at it. The wave reached the Matapā Tapu”.

Waves broke electricity poles
The man was also heard in another video saying the waves had broken electricity poles, sunk boats and engulfed the ‘Ovava hotel.

He can also be heard in another video saying in Tongan that the only time he took notice of the wave was when the king told him to assist two vehicles trying to flee the scene.

“Two vehicles came out there and the king noticed they appeared hesitant to enter so he told me to run and wave to them to come through,” the man said.

‘Alisi Moa Paasi, who shared the videos with Kaniva News last night, said the person speaking in the videos was her father, Tēvita Fau’ese Moa.

She said Tēvita was His Majesty’s Armed Forces’ (HMAF) Superintendent in ‘Eua. He called her in Auckland on Facebook from the palace while the tsunami hit at about 6pm (Tongan time) on Saturday January 15, shortly before Tonga’s internet was knocked out by the eruption.

Kaniva News could not independently confirm the authenticity of the videos.

‘Alisi clarified what her father was talking about in the videos as the background sound of the tsunami heard in the clips she sent intermittently distracted what her father was saying.

‘Alisi said his father was talking about two vehicles who attempted to flee the wave before they realised their only way out was the Matapā Tapu.

While the drivers appeared hesitant to enter the gate, ‘Alisi claimed the king alerted his father to allow the vehicle to drive through.

She said once the vehicles entered safely, the tsunami wave crashed into the gate.

‘Alisi contacted Kaniva News
‘Alisi contacted Kaniva News after the news website reported yesterday that the king had been evacuated to his villa at Mataki’eua in Tongatapu.

‘Alisi denied this and said the king was still in ‘Eua. She said she confirmed this with her father.

She said it may be that it was the Queen who had been escorted to the villa.

The Kaniva News report had been based on information published by Fiji’s Island Business media on its official Facebook page yesterday.

The news item read:

“Tonga’s King Tupou VI has been evacuated from the Royal Palace after a tsunami flooded Nuku’alofa today.

“A convoy of police and troops rushed the King to the villa at Mataki’eua as residents headed for higher ground.

“Earlier, a series of explosions were heard as an undersea volcano erupted, throwing clouds of ash into the sky.

“The explosions were heard on Lakeba, Matuku and in Fiji’s capital, Suva, around 6pm”.

Islands Business report
The Islands Business Facebook administration was contacted for comment.

The news was picked up by New Zealand mainstream media, such as the New Zealand Herald and RNZ Pacific.

The ‘Eua news came after the underwater volcano at the two Hungas had erupted for eight minutes, throwing clouds of ash into the sky yesterday afternoon.

Waves flooded the capital Nuku’alofa, where video footage has shown water engulfing buildings.

“The eruptions have been heard as booms or ‘thumps’ across the Pacific, in Fiji, Niue, Vanuatu, and in New Zealand,” RNZ Pacific reported.

The West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island has been included in a warning about dangerous sea conditions as a result of the eruption.

The New Zealand Defence Force is currently monitoring the situation in Tonga, and said it was standing by to assist if asked to do so by the Tongan government.

Meanwhile, Shane Cronin of the University of Auckland wrote in an analysis article published by The Conversation: “Soon after the eruption started, the sky was blacked out on Tongatapu, with ash beginning to fall.

“All these signs suggest the large Hunga caldera has awoken. Tsunami are generated by coupled atmospheric and ocean shock waves during an explosion, but they are also readily caused by submarine landslides and caldera collapses”.

Kalino Latu is editor of Kaniva Tonga. Asia Pacific Report collaborates with Kaniva Tonga.

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