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“When I was in the water, I remember Wolvesor eight times. My legs are crippled. I dove eight times and tried to catch my breath. the sea continued taking me here and there, dragging me to the bottom. at octoberawill I thought that if I sank again it would be because my arms were the only thing keeping me afloat. So the ninth time I dove, I went out and grabbed a log. That’s what kept me afloat“.
Survivor stories are slowly starting to trickle out of Tonga, after Saturday’s volcanic eruption and tsunami. One such story is that of Lisala Folau, a man who swam for more than a day to get out of the tsunami alive.
Folau, who is physically disabled, the described a la BBC how he clung to a log and then swam back to shore after being swept out to sea.
“I could hear my son calling from the ground and I didn’t want to answer so that he would not come toswim to meet me. Meanwhile, the waves kept taking me from here to there,” he recalled.
“I just turned around while holding the log. What came to mind is that in the sea there is life and death. Until you reach the shore: then you know if you are alive or dead.”
Tonga has confirmed three deaths, that of two locals and one British citizen. The extent of the damage is still unknown.
Communications are paralyzed. The volcano’s eruption cut the only internet cable connecting the island of 110,000 people to the world.
Until Wednesday, the Tongan diaspora around the world had not been able to contact their relatives at home. All the information came from organizations with satellite phones in the archipelago.
Folau told the radio program Newsday from the BBC how scared he was when he saw a huge wave approaching.
He was not the only one in his family trapped by the force of the sea.
“Me I was with my nephew and he was dragged too. We hugged each other as the wave pulled us from the land to the sea. When he took us further inside, I couldn’t hold him. We separated. We couldn’t see each other, but we yelled at each other and we could hear that the other one was still alive.”
This inhabitant of the island of Atata maintained in the interview that his faith and think about his family it was it that helped keep him alive.
“I stayed strong while I was at sea because I believe in God. I’m a Christian. I think gave me the strength to survive and gave me a chance at life. Also, it was the desire to see my family again that kept me strong.”
Meanwhile, aid has begun to arrive in Tonga, with more governments deploying ships and flights.
a ship of new zealand arrived It is Friday to Tongatapu, the firstThe in doing it with foreign aid of a certain magnitude. It carried 250,000 liters of water and can produce 70,000 liters of water per day through a desalination plant.
The United Nations says that clean water supplies they are the top priority for the Pacific nation.
However, authorities also revealed on Friday that tests of water on the main island showed it to be safe to drink.
“However, some communities in Tongatapu They have lost access to clean water. ae is delivering to the outer islands,” the New Zealand government said in its update.
Australia has deployed its largest ship, HMAS Adelaide, who left for Tonga this Friday. The ship carries helicopters to deliver supplies to smaller islands in the archipelago and is due to arrive in the middle of next week.
Likewise, the United Kingdom announced this Friday that it is redistributing aid from the HMS Speyand that he already sent supplies with the Australian ship.
“RThe UK will work closely with Australia and New Zealand to help the recovery effort in Tonga and is ready to support our longtime Commonwealth partner (Commomwealth),” Defense Minister Ben Wallace said.
The blanket of volcanic ash that covered the island nation after the eruption impeded an international response for the first few days.
For days, dozens of volunteers manually cleared ash from the runway of the airport on the main island, Tongatapu, to allow emergency aid planes to land.
The first two flights, from New Zealand and Australia, landed on Thursday with drinking water, desalination tools, hygiene products and medical kits, as well as telecommunications equipment.
Efforts have been made for contactless Delivery, as the Tongan authorities have expressed concern about the import of cforget the nation, up to now free ofl virus.
On Thursday, a second Australian plane turned around mid-flight after a crew member on board tested positive.
It is hoped that as communications are restored, more help will begin to arrive.
China and Japan are also sending assistance.
In Japan’s case, it deployed one of its own military planes on Thursday to deliver supplies. China has pledged $100,000 in cash relief assistance and a batch of emergency supplies.
“In the future, China will continue to provide cash assistance and supplies depending on Tonga’s situation and needs,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Thursday.
Tonga is one of the island nations key code from Pacific, an increasingly disputed region that has seen an influx of loans and donations from China.
China is now the second largest foreign aid donor in the region behind Australia, analysts say.
Earlier this week, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd tweeted: “Australia must be first and foremost to assist Tonga. Otherwise China will be there in spades.”
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.