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Tonga man describes surviving at sea for 27 hours after being swept away by tsunami

Business Insider US
sakakimoana/Twitter
sakakimoana/Twitter
  • A man said he survived around 27 hours at sea after being swept away when a tsunami hit Tonga.
  • Lisala Folau told a local radio that he is disabled, and can barely walk.
  • But he said he was eventually brought by the sea to the country's main island.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

A man in Tonga who says he struggles to walk due to a disability said he survived floating in the sea for more than 24 hours after he was swept away by the tsunami waves that hit the country.

Lisala Folau told Tongan radio station Broadcom FM that he escaped his house and climbed a tree with family to try and escape the waves on Saturday, but that a wave hit them when they climbed back down, according to a translated transcript by station editor George Lavaka.

He said he was swept away with his niece.

"We floated at sea, just calling out to each other. It was dark and we could not see each other. Very soon I could not her my niece calling anymore but I could hear my son calling," he said according to transcript, which was also cited by The Guardian.

He also said he was in the water for around 27 hours, Reuters reported.

He said his son was calling out to them, but he decided not to answer so his son would try not to rescue him: "The truth is no son can abandon his father. But for me, as a father I kept my silence for if I answered him he would jump in and try to rescue me. But I understand the tough situation and I thought if the worst comes and it is only me."

Tonga is made up of a series of islands, and Folau said he was taken from his island, Atata, and past two other islands that were uninhabited before he was brought to the main island of Tongatapu.

That means he traveled around 13 kilometers, The Guardian reported.

"I just floated, bashed around by the big waves that kept coming," he said.

Folau, a retired carpenter, said he struggles to walk: "Bear in mind that I am disabled. I can't walk properly."

The Guardian said it was not able to determine what happened to his niece.

The government has confirmed the death of three people, including a British woman, from the tsunami.

The Guardian noted that none of those confirmed dead were from Atata, where the niece is from.


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