A New Zealander born on Tongas Mangoinsel says he lost a relative and his heavenly home to the tsunami that hit the archipelago on Saturday.
Mote Pahulu, a., Lived in Auckland community faithful and Justice of the Peace, was born and raised on Mango Island.
He said things He last visited Mango in 2010 when he and his three children visited what he affectionately calls “a little paradise”.
This paradise is now covered with ash, after a volcanic eruption on Saturday night triggered a devastating tsunami that devastated Tonga.
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“The island of Mango, where I come from, is completely destroyed,” he said. “There are no more houses, everything has been washed away.”
With the Destroyed underwater internet cable and telephone lines damaged, communications with Tonga were sparse.
Pahulu said he managed to get through a 30-second call on Facebook Messenger before the internet connection went down.
“We are very excited to hear from the family in Tonga. We had a little news, but not much.“
One piece of news was that his cousin’s wife, 65-year-old Teisa Kafoika, was killed during the tsunami.
The family believe she is the 65-year-old Mango woman who was reported dead by the Tongan government this week, although this has yet to be officially confirmed.
Two of her sons are in New Zealand and completely devastated, Pahulu said.
“She was a neighbor of our house in Mango and the wife of a great person of Mango named Sulaki. They are a very excellent couple on Mango, they help a lot.
“It’s very sad that she left. We hope and are very afraid that the communications systems are operational so that we can converse.”
He believes around 30 people, mostly adults and some elderly people, live in about a dozen houses on Mango. His own brother recently finished building a house on Mango and it’s like the others now completely gone.
Pahulu’s brother died a few weeks ago, and most of Mango’s residents would have traveled to Tongatapu over Christmas and New Year for Mango’s funeral, Pahulu said when he managed to get most of them on the phone.
“Some of them went back to Mango after the funeral… If they had known that, they would have stayed on the main island a bit longer,” he sighed.
The residents were all taken to Namuka to await recovery, along with residents from Fonoifua, another small island nearby.
Pahulu remembers his childhood home as a “little paradise”.
“I remember growing up they were all little straw houses, but most families have built much, much better houses now. They recently built a beautiful church near the beach and many new homes.
Satellite imagery of Tonga has shown some of the damage caused by the eruption and tsunami.
“It would only take a few hours to circumnavigate the small island, that’s all sandy beaches and hanging palm trees, a beautiful lagoon. I imagine these beauties are all wiped out.”
With no supermarket to speak of on the island, the families were self-sufficient farmers and fishermen, Pahulu said. Sometimes families would sell fish they caught to the main islands to make money, but most lived off the land.
“Very healthy food when you’re out there, so far from the main islands. No freezers, no supermarkets where you buy all that sugary stuff. I love it,” he said affectionately.