After volcanic eruption and tsunami in Tonga: Man swims in the sea for 24 hours before being rescued – Panorama – Society



Little by little, more and more news about the disaster in Tonga is reaching the world. On Thursday, several local media reported the amazing survival story of a man who said he was swept away by the tsunami and spent a total of 24 hours in the water – resting on islands in between – before finally reaching the Pacific nation’s capital.

After Eruption of a submarine volcano a tsunami rolled over the low-lying islands last Saturday. The Pacific country suffered great damage, at least three people died according to official information. After an undersea cable was damaged, the archipelago was cut off from the outside world for days and little news reached the rest of the world.

Now that lines of communication are gradually being restored and aid is beginning to arrive from Australia and New Zealand, more details about last weekend’s fateful hours are emerging.

This is how a disabled man who was washed into the sea by the tsunami survived. Lisala Folau shared his amazing survival story with Tongan radio station Broadcom FM. One of the editors there, George Lavaka, translated the interview transcript and shared it on Facebook on Thursday.

Man swam 13 kilometers

Folau, a retired carpenter, said in the interview that he swam from his island of Atata, via two other uninhabited islands where he stayed, to the main island of Tongatapu – a total distance of about 13 kilometers. It’s one man’s tale, it can’t be verified.

Survived the tsunami: Lisala Folau.Photo: Private / Facebook

Folau had just painted his house on Saturday when the first tsunami waves came. “My older brother and a nephew came to my aid,” the man said. A wave had already rolled through his living room and they had to retreat to another part of the house when another wave at least twenty feet tall hit. “Thinking Remember I’m disabled,” he told the moderator.

“I can’t walk properly and when I walk I think a baby is faster than me.” He and the family hid on the east side of the house while the waves came from the west. He then climbed a tree with a niece while his brother and nephew ran to get help and help acquaintances in need.

“It was dark and we couldn’t see each other”

During a lull, Folau and his niece climbed back down from the tree. But shortly after, another big wave hit them and both were swept out to sea. That was around 7 p.m. in the evening. “We swam on the sea and called each other,” reported the Tongan.

“It was dark and we couldn’t see each other.” At some point he didn’t hear his niece calling anymore, but he could hear his son calling. However, he then decided not to answer for fear that he would risk his life to save him. “The truth is that no son can leave his father,” he said. It was a difficult situation, but he thought: “If the worst happens, it’s just me.”

Folau said he then figured that if he was clinging to a tree trunk, the worst-case scenario would be that his family could at least find his body. Eventually he let himself float in the water until he landed on the beach east of Toketoke Island.

Then, on Sunday morning, he spotted a police patrol boat and tried to get their attention. But the boat went on without him being seen. Eventually he tried to get to the island of Polo’a. He swam around 10am and finally arrived around 6pm. But even there he found no help.

thoughts of family

Throughout his odyssey, he kept thinking about the fates of his family – what had happened to his niece who had been washed away with him, or his sister who had diabetes, or his youngest daughter who had heart problems. “All of that was spinning around in my head.”

Finally he focused on his next move. “I was now determined to make it to Mui’i Sopu.” Sopu is on the western outskirts of the capital, Nuku’alofa, on the main island of Tongatapu. He actually arrived there around 9 p.m. and was taken away by a passing vehicle. The driver took him home and people in his village were shocked when he told his story.

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What happened to his niece and what happened to the rest of his family is unknown. But the official death figures do not include a younger person or anyone from Atata. A 50-year-old British woman, a 65-year-old woman from Mango Island and a 49-year-old man from Nomuka Island are said to have died.

“A strong-willed man”

One of Folau’s sons, Talivakaola Folau, expressed his gratitude that the father survived in another Facebook post: “A story that I will never forget in my life,” the son wrote in it. He cried when he thought about how his father swam around in the sea after the tsunami. But his father was “a strong-willed man”.

The violent volcanic eruption on Saturday – which researchers now describe as the strongest eruption in the past 30 years – triggered tsunami waves that flooded large parts of Tonga and destroyed all the houses on some smaller islands.

Tonga lies on the Pacific Ring of Fire and experiences frequent seismic activity. Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are not uncommon. Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai, which is 1800 meters high and 20 kilometers wide and about 65 kilometers north of Tonga’s capital Nuku’alofa, has often made headlines. But the current outbreak was particularly violent. The Tonga Geological Survey wrote on Facebook that gas, smoke and ash from the eruption had been thrown 20 kilometers into the air.


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