- Tsunami waves hit Tonga on January 15 followed by violent volcanic eruptions
- A Tongan man was painting his house when waves crept inside and swept him away
- After surviving 27 hours in the sea, the heroics of the Tongan man went viral on social media
Tsunami waves hit Tonga on the evening of January 15. The tsunami followed a series of violent eruptions from submarine volcano Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha'apai, 65 km north of the country's main island Tongatapu. Tsunami warnings were also issued in Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the US. Properties of the villagers were damaged and the communication infrastructure was also hit badly following the tsunami wave.
Amid chaos, a Tongan man claimed to have 'floated' in sea for 27 hours to find the shore after being swept away by waves that damaged his property while he was painting it. Lisala Folau, 57, who lived on the small, isolated island of Atata which has a population of about 60 people, was swept out to sea when the waves hit land at about 7pm on Saturday, he said in a radio interview to Tongan media agency Broadcom Broadcasting. Atata is about 8 kms northwest of Tonga's capital Nuku'alofa.
Folau said he was painting his home when he was alerted about the oncoming tsunami waves by his brother. Soon, the waves were inside his home. This forced him to climb on a tree to escape but when he got down, another big wave swept him away, he said.
"I just floated, bashed around by the big waves that kept coming," he told the radio station. Folau further said that he kept floating, and slowly managed to swim 7.5 km to the main island of Tongatapu, reaching the shore 27 hours later at about 10 pm on Sunday. Folau claimed that he is a disabled man and can't walk properly. “Bear in mind that I am disabled. I can’t walk properly … and when I can, I believe a baby can walk faster than I,” he said.
The story of Folau's heroics and his survival in the open waters for such a long time quickly went viral among Tongan groups on social media.
"Real life Aquaman," said one post on Facebook, referring to the comic book and film character. "He's a legend," said another netizen in a post.