Beaches along the NSW coast are expected to be closed for the next six hours over a tsunami warning after a 'catastrophic' volcano eruption in Tonga.
The eruption sent large waves crashing ashore and triggering tsunami alerts across parts of Australia and the Pacific.
On Saturday night and into the early hours of Sunday morning, NSW SES and police evacuated Bondi Beach.
The Bureau of Meteorology's tsunami warning is now current for the NSW coast, Norfolk Island and Lord Howe Island after cancelling ones for Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania.
NSW SES Commissioner Carlene York told reporters she expected beaches to remain closed for the next six hours and warned people risked "injury or death" if they go in the water.
"A lot of people will be disappointed that it's going to be a very humid day and the Australian way is to get into the beach, but to protect this community, the beaches are closed and Surf Life Saving have removed the flags and we're making sure that people don't go down the water," she said.
Comm York said they had to rescue a rock fisherman already on Sunday.
"We're expected that the beach will be closed for the next six hours because it's important that we watch the height of the oceans," she said.
"It's also important not to go down and look at the tsunami. In past tsunami warnings, we've had people get in their vehicles and go down to the beach. That is exactly the wrong thing to do.
"We want to make sure that whoever is in the nearby vicinity, we can evacuate people safely and we can have the roads as clear as possible.
"Because once that wave if it does come, [when] it's coming it's very vital and very urgent to get people away from the areas."
Comm York added "we are very concerned".
"Once it hits Lord Howe Island, and particularly at a height of 1.1 [metres], we're anticipating it will come onto the shores of NSW," she said.
The commissioner said 50 people on Lord Howe Island had been evacuated to higher ground.
Bondi Beach evacuated over tsunami warning
Video from Bondi Beach shows an SES worker armed with a megaphone asking people to leave.
“There is a marine-based tsunami alert. Please get off the beach,” he says.
A NSW Police spokesperson confirmed to Yahoo News Australia officers from the Eastern Suburbs Local Area Command assisted the SES in evacuating the beach.
Grace Legge, from the Bureau of Meteorology’s Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre, said a land threat remained for Lord Howe and Norfolk islands with a marine threat active for mainland areas along with Macquarie Island.
“A land threat is when we think there’s likely to be inundation from the wave itself pushing through,” she said.
— Daniel Shaw (@DanielShawAU) January 15, 2022
Evacuation Order Issued for #LordHoweIsland. Land Threat for #NorfolkIsland. Marine Threat for #NSW, #QLD, #TAS, #VIC, #MacquarieIsland. #Tsunami Warning after volcanic eruption near TONGA ISLANDS. Latest info here: https://t.co/Tynv3ZQpEq. pic.twitter.com/wliDqjgYbB
— Bureau of Meteorology, Australia (@BOM_au) January 15, 2022
A marine threat is more for “unusual currents” and “dangerous rips”, Ms Legge said.
“So, it’s mainly a danger if you’re in the water or on the foreshore,” she said.
Ms Legge said it was not known how much longer the threat would remain active.
The bureau said a tsunami wave height of 1.27 metres was observed on Norfolk Island at 9pm AEDT and an 82cm wave was registered on the Gold Coast at 10.54pm AEDT on Saturday.
It said 1.10m-high waves were being recorded at Ned's Beach on Lord Howe Island about 11pm AEDT and a 50cm surge was observed at Hobart's Derwent Park about 11.44pm AEDT.
Port Kembla in NSW's Wollongong registered a 65cm wave at 2.50am AEDT on Sunday.
Stay safe everyone 🇹🇴 pic.twitter.com/OhrrxJmXAW
— Dr Faka’iloatonga Taumoefolau (@sakakimoana) January 15, 2022
Tsunami inundates Tonga after volcano eruption
A Twitter user identified as Dr Faka’iloatonga Taumoefolau posted video showing waves crashing ashore in Tonga.
“Can literally hear the volcano eruption, sounds pretty violent,” he wrote, adding in a later post: “Raining ash and tiny pebbles, darkness blanketing the sky.”
Jese Tuisinu, a television reporter at Fiji One, posted a video on Twitter showing large waves crashing ashore, with people trying to flee in their cars.
"It is literally dark in parts of Tonga and people are rushing to safety following the eruption," he said.
There were no immediate reports of casualties however, Tonga lost all internet connectivity about 6.40pm local time, Doug Madory, director of internet analysis for the network intelligence firm Kentik, said.
Tonga gets its internet via an undersea cable from Suva, Fiji, which presumably was damaged.
A spokesperson for the Australian government said initial assessments were underway and the Department of Foreign Affairs was working to ensure Australians in Tonga are safe and accounted for.
"The size of these waves means the threat is for the marine environment for the east coast of Australia, and for land on Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island; however the situation will be closely monitored and warnings updated as required," the bureau said in a statement on Saturday night.
"People in land warning zones are strongly advised to move 1 kilometre inland or go to high ground at least 10 metres above sea level.
"While evacuations are not necessary for marine warning zones, people in these areas are advised to leave the water and move away from the immediate water's edge."
with Reuters, The Associated Press and AAP
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