Tongan Australians Are Still Waiting To Hear From Loved Ones In Aftermath Of Volcanic Tsunami

A phone and internet blackout has left people waiting days to hear from their family members in Tonga.

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It could be another fortnight before Tongan Australians are able to reach their loved ones back home, after international phone and internet connections were wiped out by a devastating underwater volcanic eruption and tsunami on Saturday.

The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai eruption sent shockwaves around the globe, spread ash cloud and dust, and triggered violent metre-high waves that tore through much of the west coast of main island Tongatapu. Initial assessments by the Red Cross say that 80,000 people have been affected so far.

Queensland man Mosese Sitapa told 9News he was on a video call with his four-year-old Elone when a wave washed through the property — and hasn’t heard from his son since.

Damage to Tonga’s internet cable, little access to satellite phones, and the power being cut off have meant that most of the country’s population have no way to touch base with their family members overseas. Plans were announced on Tuesday to reconnect 2G network services, according to a Pacific Correspondent in New Zealand.

There are at least 10,000 Tongan-born people in Australia at the moment. “We can’t really tell what we need to do until we get on the phone and make contact with our loved ones,” said Anthony Lolohea from NSW to the ABC. “Hopefully I can help them in some way, you know, send a bit of money or supplies to help them get back on their feet,” he said.

Tonga’s Olympic flag bearer Pita Taufatofua has started a fundraiser to directly assist vital infrastructure repairs and humanitarian efforts. He shared on Sunday that he hasn’t heard from or about his father in Veitongo, Tongatapu, or his family on a further away island in the archipelago Ha’apai — who live near the water.

“Many Tongans around the world are in the same boat as me, and worried about their families in Tonga. Praying that more information comes through,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald. “My focus is on the people of Tonga who will need all our help to rebuild,” he said.

You can donate to Taufatofua’s fundraiser here.

Photo Credit: Nick Thompson/Flickr