First Hand Account of the Tongan Tsunami

As I mentioned in my last post, the only person I know in the part of Tonga hit by the tsunami is Mafi, the manager of the Tonga Development Bank office in Niuatoputapu.

She and the rest of the bank staff up there are all fine.

Below is her account of what happened when the tsunami struck Tonga. Part of this was originally written in Tongan and I’ve translated it as best I could.

Here is her story:
Some one called out that fateful morning the ocean is coming ashore.

So the first thing I thought of was to get to the Bank which is 2 minutes from my house in order to check on our things. I got my elderly mother-in-law and daughter into the van and we drove towards the Bank.

Half way down I saw the big wave coming towards us,
It was moving across the bank and I saw it being destroyed. All I could do was to go into reverse gear flooring the gas.

I picked up all the people running on the road and headed towards the high ground. The wave was about 10 meters (30 feet) behind us. I just kept praying and asked God to live and I am thinking I just have to to keep the van in control.

I left the people in a safe high place and came down again to see if I could help some people in the lower ground, but the wave had gone back and all I could see was ruin.

We kept the people on the mountain all night in case another wave will come back. People were so frightened and scared and we tried to calm them.

We picked up all the food and staff from the store and that's what the people ate that day and night.

Hika (woman’s name) was able to survive because she managed to swim with the wave without hitting anything.

All the Bank's building are all gone including the strong room with everything in it. 'There is no equipment remaining from the Bank. Everything is destroyed.

The Bank has an emergency plan and they have already sent supplies and people up to Niuatoputapu to assist with the recovery.

We have had several more earthquakes since this one, but none have been major. I thought I felt one yesterday, but it wasn't very strong and I thought perhaps I was imagining it. But when I checked the USGS Earthquake website, it turns out, it really was another one. They also list some other Tonga earthquakes that I didn't feel.

It will take a long time for Niuatoputapu to recover, but for the rest of the country it is pretty much business as normal. There is no impact at all here in Vava’u (or the other parts of Tonga) and everything is open and running.

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  1. WOW. I am a Tongan from Kolofo'ou Tongatapu and I think you blog is great. Especially to hear more about our outer islands