Since the massive Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano eruption, locals are starting to tell their stories about that terrifying day. One of those truly unbelievable stories is about Lisala Folau, a 57-year-old Tongan man who claims he swam for more than 24 hours after being swept out to sea by the tsunami waves.
Folau lives on the small island of Atala, where he retired as a carpenter. Folau shared his story with Tongan media agency Broadcom Broadcasting. According to the Guardian, Folau said that he was painting his house Saturday evening when he heard from his brother about the incoming tsunami and climbed up a tree to seek refuge.
He and his niece climbed down during a lull but were caught off guard by a massive wave nearly 20 feet high when they were swept out to sea. Folau told the Broadcaster that he has mobility issues that affect his legs and prevent him from walking properly. Folau said he could hear the sound of his son’s voice yelling for him, but he didn’t want him risking his life trying to save him.
“My thinking was if I answered him, he would come, and we would both suffer, so I just floated, bashed around by the big waves that kept coming,” he said. “It stayed with my mind if I can cling to a tree or anything and if anything happens and I lose my life, searchers may find me, and my family can view my dead body.”
Folau said his family was the main thing on his mind. “All these were racing in my mind, and what point was there that now I have survived and what about them.”
He said he reached the shore some 26 hours after the first wave swept him out to sea. Folau told Broadcom it was “so unexpected that I survived after being washed away, floating and surviving the dangers I just faced.”