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Tsunami warnings have been issued in several countries including Tonga, Fiji, and New Zealand, after a giant underwater volcano eruption.

Social media footage from Tonga showed waves washing through a church and several homes. Witnesses said ash is falling over the capital, Nuku’alofa.

Residents there have been urged to move to higher ground.

It is the latest in a series of eruptions of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haʻapai volcano.

The eight-minute eruption was so violent it could be heard as “loud thunder sounds” in Fiji, more than 800km (500 miles) away, officials in the capital Suva said.

The plumes of gas, smoke and ash pouring from the volcano reached 20km (12 miles) into the sky, said Tonga Geological Services.

Tonga’s capital lies just 65km north of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai. A 1.2m tsunami wave was observed there, according to Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology.

In New Zealand, which is more than 2,300km away, officials have warned of storm surges from the eruption.

The National Emergency Management Agency said parts of the country could see “strong and unusual currents and unpredictable surges at the shore”.

Local forecaster Weather Watch tweeted: “The energy release is simply astonishing”, adding: “Reports of people hearing the sonic booms across New Zealand.”

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