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Tsunami warning issued for Tonga region but few seem to be taking it seriously

March 19, 2009 |  2:16 pm

Tongavolcano_2 **UPDATE: The tsunami warning was canceled several hours after this item was posted.

The photos accompanying this item are of an underwater volcanic eruption Wednesday near the Tongan island of Tongatapu in the South Pacific.

The steam and ash carried high into the air. On Thursday (Friday in Tonga), a 7.9-magnitude earthquake struck in the region, prompting officials to issue a tsunami warning for Tonga and neighboring islands.

There were no reports of damage from the earthquake and, according to an Associated Press story, few were taking the tsunami warning seriously.

"People are out on the roads, laughing at the warning," police spokesman Niua Kama said. "They are not moving from the coast."

Hopefully, Mother Nature won't be enjoying the last laugh.

The Hawaii-based Tsunami Warning Center cautioned that some coastal areas in Hawaii also could experience a rise in sea level and unusual currents that could last several hours.

-- Pete Thomas

Photos: Matangi Tonga Online via Associated Press