Tongans sharing pain of relatives in kingdom as they wait for news in aftermath of devastating volcanic eruption

Some Tongans living in Auckland slept on the floor without any covering last night  as a way of sharing the pain and distress experienced by their relatives in Tonga.

The Tongan community in New Zealand has been devastated by the news emerging from Tonga where tsunamis generated  by the eruption of  the underwater volcano Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai, have swept across low lying areas.

Full communication with the kingdom has been cut off at the time of writing. Radio New Zealand reported that communications with Tonga had been down since 6.30pm last night.

Tongans in New Zealand have been trying to contact relatives in the kingdom, but with limited success.

Some have been relieved to find that relatives have made it to safety, while others have heard stories of family members being separated as they fled homes, some of which collapsed as the tsunami struck coastal areas.

Tongan Business Woman in Auckland, Tuitui Folauhola, said he had been trying through the night to contact her mother and family is the island of ‘Atatā. The island is situated between Tongatapu and Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai.

“Atatā I love you so much. My mum Vaiufia,Soape,Tolofi and  Uate and your whanau. As long as you are still alive. I love you heaps,’ heartbroken Folauhola said.

She told Kaniva News this morning she still cannot contact her family but he received unconfirmed information they were fine.

With no immediate news, Tongans in New Zealand fear the results of the volcano could be catastrophic. There have already been reports of Tonga remains the hardest hit with destruction of homes, vehicles and infrastructure.

According to the BBC many parts of Tonga are covered in ash and are experiencing a near-total blackout of power, phone lines and internet services. The extent of any injuries or damage was still unclear.

The central part of the capital, Nuku’alofa, which is 65km from the eruption, was flooded and photographs show water in the grounds of the royal palace.

Tongan resident, Mere Taufa, who has been widely quoted  by the international media, said the eruption had hit as her family was preparing for dinner. Her younger brother thought bombs were exploding nearby.

Ms Taufa said the next thing she knew, water was rushing into their home.

“You could just hear screams everywhere, people screaming for safety, for everyone to get to higher ground,” she told Stuff.

Prayers

Meanwhile, Tongan Society South Canterbury general manager Sina Latu said this morning members of the community were still waiting to hear any news from the island and were “waiting and praying.”

Thousands of Tongan Methodists from around the world have joined a day of prayer as they wait for news from Tonga.

The online prayer meeting attracted 3700 Tongans from New Zealand, Australia and the United States.

Rev. Kalolo Fihaki, who is Superintendent of the church’s Tongan synod, said the church was keen to work with the New Zealand government in providing aid.

He said the church was waiting to find out what people needed.

Tsunami

The eruption was heard as far away as Vanuatu and Alaska.

Neighbouring Fiji, Samoa and American Samoa have been the most affected by the eruption.

Many Pacific Island nations as well as countries on the Pacific rim have declared tsunami warnings.

In New Zealand the tsunami hit the north island, causing some damage, but meteorologists said the wave was built on existing marine turbulence caused by ex-Cyclone Cody as it tracks away from Fiji.

Parts of the east coast of Australia have also been put on alert as have the west coast of the United States, including Alaska, California, Oregon and Washington. Japan also declared an alert.

Flooding in low lying areas of California has been reported.

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