The waves washed ashore at least three people, including Angela Glover, who was originally from England. She had moved to Tonga and opened an animal shelter with her tattoo artist husband. After the volcano erupted, a picture of a gorgeous red sunset was posted on Instagram telling her followers that “all is well”. But when she came back to rescue some of the dogs she was caring for, she drowned.
Her husband, who found her body a few days later, survived by holding on to a tree. Many other people did and did the same. Tricia Emberson, 56, said her uncle and son, who live on a small island near the flooded Tongatapu River, also climbed trees for safety.
“The island was submerged or partially submerged, and almost everything was washed away,” she said.
The Panjimoto Island Resort, which was run by her uncle for decades, seems to be gone. In a 4-hour phone call Thursday, he told her that after dozens of attempts to reconnect, her home had pushed her entire back wall into the sea.
“I grew up with this,” she said in an interview from Australia, where she was living before Covid closed international borders. “You don’t really know how big these things are, but you grow up with an instinct of what to do, and I think the proof of that is the fact that we’ve had very few deaths so far.”
Many Tonga residents abroad who were able to talk to their relatives – usually in the early hours when the demand for satellite services was lower – reported that their annoying calls were usually answered with modest pleas not to worry. The people of Tonga are known for their calm, serene culture and Christian faith, which sometimes seems to go against the fear of an ever-interconnected world.
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