A disabled man, washed out to sea January 15 when a volcanic eruption in Tonga triggered a tsunami, says it was his faith in God that supported him through his ordeal.
Lisala Folau, a disabled 57-year-old retired carpenter, survived for 27 hours in the sea following the eruption.
Folau was at home when the tsunami hit his tiny island of Atata, population 60. He and his niece climbed a tree where they stayed until the waves cleared, only to be hit by another set of waves that dragged them off the island into the sea.
For a while, he was able to call out to his niece and she would shout back to him, but after a while, her voice was silenced. He heard his son crying out for him from the shore, but Folau did not respond knowing it would put the son at risk if he’d swim out to rescue his father.
Battered by waves that pulled him below the surface eight times, he realized he could not continue to fight to survive. It was then that a log appeared in the water and he grabbed hold and held tight as wave after wave crashed over him through the turbulent night.
In the water for 27 hours, Folau drifted and swam, finally making it to the village of Sopu near the capital of Tonga. Barely able to walk even before this ordeal, he eventually staggered to a public road where he was picked up by a passing vehicle.
Asked if he worried, in one interview he said “I have faith in my God and I left everything to the will of God and his plans for me, and if he wants me to live to see my family, it is up to him...I give praise and glory to God because he gave me the opportunity to see my family again.”
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