Bay Area's Tongan Community Gets Ahold of Family After Tsunami, Volcano

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There is finally some relief for the devastated island community of Tonga and their worried Bay Area families as supplies and communications were being restored Thursday.

The emergency aid, mainly from Australia and New Zealand is the first to arrive since Tonga was hit hard by a volcanic eruption and tsunami last week.

Los Gatos resident Lani Atuvei Faiva said her son, his wife and their daughter took a photo the day before the volcanic eruption and tsunami.

The island has been cutoff for nearly a week and Faiva said that she wasn’t able to talk to them at all until late Wednesday night, when limited communication lines were restored.

“I’m so thrilled and I’m so happy. So blessed. The only thing, thank god every day, day and night,” she said.

Faiva said she finally got to ask her family how they were.

“’How is the baby? How are you guys doing? How is the food, you know’? All they said is ‘Water.’ Water.’ That’s all they asked for,” she said.

Suren Sellamuttu, the owner of Kumar’s Island Market in San Jose told NBC Bay Area Thursday that many Tongans have come to his business after talking to their families, sending personal relief packages.

“People on their own. Families are coming together, packing stuff, getting together. There’s a company in Oakland that’s coordinating it and doing free shipping,” he said.

The company SF Enterprises told NBC Bay Area Thursday that they were encouraging families to call ahead or go through its website. It is also helping with a big Tongan relief effort next week in San Francisco.

So, water, masks, dry nonperishable food and any medical supply. I know some people are bringing masks with respirators on them,” said Sesilia Langi Pahulu, manager of SF Enterprises.

Faiva said it’s far from over and she couldn’t reconnect Thursday.

“No, it’s not easy. (laughs) I’ve been trying. Maybe about 50 times,” she said.

But even limited communication has helped a lot. Those coordinating relief efforts now have a better idea what’s needed and relieved families said not knowing was the worst part.

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