Bay Area's Tongan Community Worried About Family, Loved Ones After Tsunami

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San Mateo County has one of the largest Tongan populations outside the Polynesian islands with roughly 60,000 people.

The Bay Area's Tongan community members said they are worried for their loved ones, and their fears are magnified because they have not been able to talk to anyone in Tonga.

At the Tokemoana Foods in Redwood City, members of the Tongan community were only hearing bits of news coming out of Tonga Saturday.

“A lot of devastation. There’s a lot of fear right now,” said Michelle Tamasese of Tokemoana Foods Tomasese told NBC Bay Area’s Thom Jensen Saturday that her grandmother is safe in Fiji but she worries about extended family, friends and the people of Tonga, as there’s just no communications at all right now.

“The eruptions have gotten so bad, that the internet connection is out right now. I read there’s also no way to radio in either,” she said.

There are a few videos circulating online that showed water rushing through towns and a church.

The Bay Area’s Tongan community said that they can tell by the satellite images and the descriptions of earthquakes and tsunamis that the devastation will likely be widespread.

“It was pretty sad,” San Mateo resident Tevita Maile.

Maile added that he was able to talk to familymembers on the main island before the eruption and the tsunami hit.

“They were scared. They were really scared,” he said.

Another fear facing the communities is what will happen when hundreds, possibly thousands of people come to Tonga for recovery efforts.

They said it's worries that COVID-19 will grab a foothold in vulnerable and largely unvaccinated populations.

“Tonga was one of the very few countries that didn’t experience COVID-19, until recently I believe. So there’s a lot of conversation around it and just trying to figure out what the best step for our people is,” Tamasese said.

Tomasese added that the restaurant is eager to hear from survivors to find out how people here can help with donations. She said she is sure they will be needing fresh water, clothes and food soon. Then, they will likely need financial help to start rebuilding.

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