Bay Area Tongan community worry, waiting to hear from family, friends after Tonga volcanic eruption

"I'm just asking anybody who believes in God, please, remember Tonga in your prayers."

ByTim Johns KGO logo
Sunday, January 16, 2022
Bay Area Tongan community worried after Tonga volcanic eruption
The Tongan community in the Bay Area is worried as they wait to hear from family and friends impacted the undersea volcano that erupted near Tonga.

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (KGO) -- For many in the Tongan community, it has been an emotional rollercoaster.

After an underwater volcano erupted in the South Pacific, the nearby island country of Tonga was hit by a devastating tsunami- the effects were even felt here in California, some 5,400 miles away.

RELATED: Tsunami advisory in effect for US West Coast after underwater volcano explodes in South Pacific

Now, many Tongans in the Bay Area say they haven't heard from friends or family.

Reverend Vaka Taimani is the pastor of First Tongan Assembly of God Church in San Carlos.

His son is currently in Tonga.

"We still trust that, even though we haven't heard from them for almost 24 hours now. But we believe and have hope that something good is going to come out from this," Taimani said.

RELATED: 'King tides on steroids': Tsunami advisory brings strong waves, damage to parts of Bay Area

Sunday's tsunami advisory got the attention of thousands in the Bay Area and left some neighbors running for safety.

It's a similar story for many Tongans across the region.

Michelle Tamasese helps run a Tongan restaurant and grocery store in Redwood City.

"Family is a huge thing in the Polynesian culture and so, if a couple families are being affected, it affects us all," Tamasese said.

Tamasese says her heart breaks for those still in the country.

Many of whom come from humble backgrounds.

RELATED: Tonga eruption: Videos show flooding, damage after tsunami waves hit San Francisco Bay Area

An undersea volcano erupted in near the Pacific nation of Tonga, sending tsunami waves crashing across the San Francisco Bay Area coast.

"You can't help but wonder how they're going to be able to rebuild right after this," Tamasese said.

But despite the hardships that the Tongan people are facing, those I talked to Saturday night say they're confidant the community will recover.

That includes Reverend Taimani, who says his people are strong.

RELATED: New tsunami hazard maps show Bay Area regions most at-risk if 'worst-case scenario' were to occur

California geologists say a once-in-a-lifetime tsunami could inundate more of the Bay Area than previously thought.

But, he still requests one thing from those wishing to help.

"I'm just asking anybody who believes in God, please, remember Tonga in your prayers," Taimani said.