Tongan families in North Texas are praying and waiting to hear from relatives after a volcano eruption triggered a tsunami that devastated parts of the Pacific Island nation of Tonga.
Thursday, the first plane of humanitarian supplies arrived five days after the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haʻapai submarine volcano eruption spread ash across the islands and led to massive waves that destroyed an island.
Satellite images show the widespread devastation. Search and assessment efforts are ongoing, but so far at least three people are dead, and crops and drinking water supplies have been ruined. It could be a month before internet is fully restored. The eruption severed a giant undersea internet cable that impacted international and domestic communication.
The Tongan Community Committee estimates there are roughly 6,000-7,000 Tongans living in Euless and surrounding communities. Many still have homes and relatives in Tonga and are holding prayer vigils and following social media posts for updates.
"We are looking and you know, looking at the news, we're waiting anxiously to hear from them. And all our thoughts and all our good wishes are all heading towards their way that they recover and that they are safe," said Ofa Faiva-Siale, the city's liason to the Tongan Community Committee.
Over the phone, Viliami Asaeli shared that he was recently able to make contact with his nieces and was relieved to know they are safe. He says the sound of the eruption was so loud, they described it as a "deafening" and that it hurt their ears. Asaeli says his nieces also saw smoke, ashes and waves hit the coast of their island, but their inland property was not damaged.
"We are strong people of faith, when you get in a situation like that, you pray," Asaeli said.
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Asaeli and Faiva-Siale said while the community remains in close contact, right now they're directing people asking to support recovery efforts to send donations through the Red Cross in Australia and New Zealand.