Tonga’s tsunami: ‘Nana! There’s a wave coming … Nana! It’s here!’

A Tongan grandmother shares her tsunami story
A grandmother, Tonga Fonua, from ‘Atatā island, shares her story of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano eruption and tsunami on January 15. Image: Ordinary Tongan Lives

WITNESS: By Ordinary Tongan Lives

It happened so quickly and so suddenly that we were completely unprepared.

We were going about our Saturday chores when I heard one grandchild from the beach crying out:

“Nana! There’s a wave coming all the way to our wild hibiscus tree!

“It’s coming, Nana! It’s here!”

At first you’re confused but you quickly snap out of it and yell, “Run! Come, let’s run!”

We gathered all the grandkids and ran to higher ground with my children. Some of their parents are overseas for fruitpicking while I care for them.

My husband was still inside the house when we ran. He later came looking for us.

Talaiasi Seni’s house was our first place of refuge as it’s on elevated ground. Many other mothers and children from the village joined us there.

When the first explosion sounded, we had already seen big waves crashing in the middle of the village, taking our houses with it.

Heading to the bush
We decided to run further to even higher ground. That meant heading to the bush. I tell you, the cries and echoes of prayers from mothers and children were heard throughout.

“Jesus, please save us. Oh Jesus, let us live.”

That was repeatedly called out that evening into the night. Even I could no longer be quiet as I cried out in prayer.

When everyone settled on higher ground in the midst of a manioke plantation, I asked if we could all say a prayer.

I said, “We have nowhere else to run now. If it’s God’s will that we die, we will do so gratefully. But let us call on Him first.”

And so we sat down in the midst of the bush. Some held onto trees and some hid in the bushes. But every single one of us uttered our most sincere prayers to God for our lives.

This personal account is Tonga Fonua from ‘Atatā island in the kingdom of Tonga. Republished with permission.

Ash damage from the Hunga Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai volcano on Jan 15 2022
Ash damage from the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano in the kingdom of Tonga on January 15. Image: Ordinary Tongan Lives
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