• Tonga tsunami alert after Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haʻapai erupts
• Fiji, Samoa and American Samoa issued with tsunami alerts
• Tongan fleeing the waters calls on people to 'pray' for her family
• Moment of huge eruption caught by satellite imagery
• Marine warnings also issued for North Island, Chatham Islands, Fiji and American Samoa
Auckland Tongan community leader, Melino Maka, says he has been trying to get through to family and friends in Tonga for several hours since tonight's offshore volcanic eruption - with no luck.
Maka, like so many other Tongans based in New Zealand, have been shocked by the massive Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai eruption which has resulted in a tsunami warning issued in the island nation, large waves which have come ashore, appeals for people to seek higher ground and parked vehicles being washed away.
"It's quite an anxious time for us. I'm going to stay up and keep trying. All the networks are down.
"He said tonight would be a tough night for those on the ground, as well as those families back in New Zealand and around the world waiting for daylight to see what the damage is.
"Families are waiting to see what will happen. That's the most desperate thing - not knowing."
Maka said he had already spoken to a number of church leaders in Auckland tonight and they have agreed that they must be prepared to send aid as soon as possible.
"After seeing the videos online and on TV, we know there will be damage."
Aid might be some days in arriving though. A large ash cloud will make flying into the country perilous. It is also yet to be determined how badly Tonga's national airport has been damaged.
Maka acknowledged that the deadly 2009 tsunami in Samoa - that also affected a small island in Tonga and American Samoa - was very much at the forefront of people's minds after seeing today's developing situation.
"It really reminds us that in the Pacific, we're quite vulnerable to natural disasters."
Tongans have been urged to head to high land tonight after the latest eruption of Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai; with a tsunami warning being issued shortly before 6pm NZT.
Since then waves of up to 1.5m have surged onshore.
In New Zealand, the National Emergency Management Agency has issued a warning of potential impact along our coastline.
Civil Defence officials stated: "We expect New Zealand coastal areas on the north and east coast of the North Island and the Chatham Islands to experience strong and unusual currents and unpredictable surges at the shore."
New Zealand's MetService said the eruption had resulted in a "pressure surge" which had been observed in its weather stations across New Zealand tonight.
Meanwhile, officials from both Fiji and American Samoa have also issued warnings to their populations over potential tsunami.
The warning issued in American Samoa states: "A hazardous tsunami may have been generated by this nearby volcano that could soon impact nearby coast.
"Monitoring is underway to evaluate the tsunami threat."
It added that current observations indicated that "tsunami impacts in American Samoa are greater than had been forecast".
Fijian residents, especially those in "low lying coastal areas" have been urged to stay out of the water.
"Strong currents and dangerous waves" had been reported.
New Zealand's WeatherWatch described the event as a "huge volcanic eruption that caused a tsunami in Tonga and turned daylight into darkness ".
It also shared imagery by captured by the Himawari satellite.
WeatherWatch said "the satellite imagery is one of a kind capturing an eruption this big and this clearly".
There have been claims on social media that the eruption was heard by some Kiwis as far away as Papamoa and the Hawke's Bay.
The loud eruption was heard as far away as Fiji, with Anthony Brown – who is in Nadi – telling the Herald: "For the last hour there have been continuous explosive sounds with continuous rumbling, windows rattling and doors rattling."
The US Storm Watch website said that the eruption was "one of the most violent volcano eruptions ever captured on satellite".
Volcanic ash was raining down on the capital city of Nuku'alofa.
When the tsunami warning was announced, police and local authorities advised all residents to move to higher ground.
One local posted on social media: "A volcanic explosion just erupted and people have evacuated to higher ground now from possible tsunami waves also ash shards are falling and now the ash clouds are covering the island of Tongatapu.
"We live in Kolomotu'a near the ocean so we have left already and we are in our cars heading out but traffic on every road. Please pray for us as a family and safety."
The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haʻapai volcano is located about 30km south-east of Fonuafo'ou island in Tonga. It had been active from December 20, 2021, but was declared dormant on January 11.