A major 7.9-magnitude earthquake that struck off the Tonga islands region early Friday triggered a tsunami, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said.

The centre originally issued a tsunami warning for Tonga, Niue, Kermadec Islands, American Samoa, Samoa and Fiji after the US Geological Survey said the quake hit at 6.17 am (1817 GMT), centred 210 kilometres (130 miles) south-southeast of the Tongan capital Nuku'Alofa.

The centre then issued a further statement saying "Sea level readings confirm that a tsunami was generated.

"This tsunami may have been destructive along coastlines of the region near the earthquake epicentre. Authorities in the region should take appropriate action in response to this possibility."

The centre said it would continue monitoring sea level gauges in the area.

In December 2004 an undersea earthquake off Sumatra, Indonesia, set off a tsunami that killed more than 220,000 people around the Indian Ocean.