Tongan pastor in Bossier City anxious to hear from family after massive volcanic eruption

“So far, I think they are OK; but I don’t know”
Sione Tu’uta, like so many other Tongans abroad, anxiously awaits news from his loved ones...
Sione Tu’uta, like so many other Tongans abroad, anxiously awaits news from his loved ones following a volcanic eruption that cut the nation off from the world.(KSLA)
Published: Jan. 17, 2022 at 5:56 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 17, 2022 at 7:16 PM CST
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BOSSIER CITY, La. (KSLA) — Days after a massive volcanic eruption spawned a tsunami and blanketed Tonga in ash, Tongans around the world are anxiously awaiting news of their loved ones.

Sione Tu’uta, a pastor at First United Methodist Church in Bossier City, has family on the island. He says the last time they spoke was the morning of the eruption.

“I have two brothers and two sisters. Both of my brothers are still home. My brothers and their families.

“After this event, I think of them often,” Tu’uta continued. “There isn’t an hour that goes by that I don’t wonder how they are doing. I am the oldest of the boys, so I have that role. So far, I think they are OK; but I don’t know. We are still waiting.”

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The explosion effectively cut off communication to the nation of Tonga; a single underwater fiber-optic cable that runs to Fiji likely was severed. The company that owns the cable says repairs could take weeks.

“It’s not the first time the fiber was damaged,” Tu’uta said. “A few years back, there was a drag net for fishing that cut it. Since this is an underwater volcano, it shifts the whole line; so they are literally cut off from the world.

“The boat that can restore the line and do that work is docked in Australia,” he added. “Depending on the water and how the weather goes, it’s suggested it will take another two to three days for it to be fixed; but I am not sure. We are all waiting. There is a very small amount of communication coming out. Every Tongan overseas is scraping for any news from their families. We are scouring online to find anything.”

Tu’uta said many are relying on information from New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Marise Payne, the Australian minister of foreign affairs. On Monday, Australia and New Zealand launched surveillance flights to asses the damage.

CBS reports that Ardern said the capital, Nuku’alofa, was covered in a thick film of volcanic dust, contaminating water supplies and making fresh water a vital need.

Tu’uta said his church is collecting monetary donations at this time. “In the meantime, we pray and collect resources. The most we can do is collect money; and when aid opens up, we can send it home to help.

The island nation was hit by a tsunami following an underwater volcanic eruption Saturday.

“I wish I could say to just go buy a case of water and send it,” he continued. “But the best way to help is through money right now.

“If there’s anyone who understands what Tonga is going through right now, it’s Louisianans. The people of this state know how to survive disasters. There are many down south who are still trying to put their lives back together. The way we get through this is helping one another. In the meantime, just pray.”

If you are interested in making a monetary donation, you can call the First United Methodist Church in Bossier City at (318) 742-3823

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