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Tonga remains on tsunami alert

Nuku'alofa, Tonga

Tonga remains on alert tonight during a Pacific tsunami watch, after a tsunami was generated off the coast of Chile earlier today. Tonga’s Chief Meteorological Officer ‘Ofa Fa’anunu said at 6:15pm that if the wave remains at its forecasted height of between .3 -1M as it approaches the Pacific islands, they will issue a marine warning later this evening.

We will issue a marine alert about six hours out and three hours out,” he said. The alerts will be on the local government radio and on 87.5FM, as well as by email and on the Tonga Met website.

Tonga Met has not issued a warning for Tonga at the moment because “we don’t want people to panic”, he said.

We are waiting for it to pass French Polynesia and to see the tidal gauges as it approaches Tonga,” he said.

According to forecasts from the NWS Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre today the tsunami is expected to pass Pitcairn Island at about 8:15pm (Tonga time), and move through French Polynesia between 9:00pm and 11:12pm (Tonga time). It is forecast to reach Nuku'alofa in Tonga at 1:19am tonight.

If it was above 1 metre it should be a real threat to the islands and in that case we would issue a [land] warning,” said ‘Ofa, who is not expecting the tsunami to to reach that height in Tonga.

 “We have had a couple of these events before and we didn’t get much when the wave went through,” he said “The forecast is kind of elevated because of the uncertainties,” he said.