- BBC News World
The relatives of two Mexican biologists trapped in Tonga experience hours of anguish as they are unaware of their situation after Saturday’s tsunami.
Lesli Elisa Nava Flores and David Olaf Santillán González are among the tens of thousands of people trapped in the Pacific island nation who was left incommunicado after the massive eruption of a volcano and subsequent tsunami.
“On Saturday the British embassy in Tonga lent my sister a satellite phone to be able to communicate with my mother,” Amelia Nava, sister of Lesli Elisa, told BBC Mundo.
“My mom said that it was a very very short call. He told him that they were fine, that they were sheltered in a safe area, but that they were incommunicado and asked us to please support them so that they could leave the island,” he adds.
Lesli Elisa and David Olaf have lived in Nukuʻalofa, the capital and main island of Tonga, for two years.
After the eruption of the submarine volcano and subsequent tsunami, electricity, internet and telephone communications were suspended and the magnitude of the damage is unknown.
Amelia Nava affirms that he has communicated with his sister for the last time on Friday afternoon.
“She told me that they had been warned that there would probably be a tsunami, not to go near the beaches. They went for food and supplies,” he tells BBC Mundo.
“After that I no longer spoke to my sister, but David wrote to his brother-in-law saying that it was raining volcanic stones near where they were, that they were possibly going to be cut off, but that they were fine.”
Amelia says that her sister and David took refuge in a hotel near the airport, in an area far from the area that was inundated by the tsunami.
“It is seen that the tsunami occurred on one of the shores of the island where everything was flooded. They were at the airport, which is a little further from that area,” he says.
Indeed, the New Zealand High Commission in Tonga posted on Facebook that there are reports of “significant damage to resorts and the coastal area of North Nuku’alofa.”
Your work in Tonga
The biologists who graduated from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) have been living in Tonga for two years working on the maintenance of fish and coral reefs.
“In fact, their employment contract was for one year, but as a result of the pandemic they had to stay there because due to covid they closed the airport in Tonga and they could no longer leave,” says Amelia Nava.
Even before the tsunami, due to the pandemic, the Tonga airport only carried a very restricted number of flights.
And Lesli and David had to stay on the island last year due to these restrictions.
Help to repatriate them
The relatives of the biologists are requesting the support of the Foreign Minister of Mexico, Marcelo Ebrard, and Alejandro Ramos Cardoso, deputy chief of mission of the Mexican embassy in New Zealand to help repatriate them.
It is believed that up to 80,000 people may have been affected by the eventthe International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) told the BBC.
Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, said the tsunami caused “significant damage”, sweeping boats ashore and hitting shops along the shore.
In particular, there is much concern about the situation in Tonga’s more remote outer islands.
Now you can receive notifications from BBC World. Download the new version of our app and activate it so you don’t miss out on our best content.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.