HONOLULU (KHON2) — It was a sigh of relief for one Oahu woman with family in Tonga when she learned her 80-year-old mother and sister were safe after an underwater volcano erupted around 6:27 p.m. HST Friday, Jan. 14, sending waves to the Tongan islands.

The last time Sia Tonga spoke with her sister in Tongatapu was soon after the eruption.

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“She’s like, ‘I don’t know if you can hear, but in the car, you can hear on top of the roof; it sounds like it’s hailing,” Tonga said. “But it’s actually these small little black stones. It says it looks like she said ‘it’s covering the whole island. And so they were trying to get to higher ground.'”

Her sister said the air was filled with black soot. Then the communication dropped and calls and messages on social media went unanswered.

“Tongans across the whole globe were trying to get a hold of their families, and they were feeling probably the same thing I was feeling. And in times of helplessness and hopelessness, social media was flooded with prayer warriors from around the world.”


While Sia Tonga has not been able to speak directly with her family members in Tonga, she heard from her cousin Ana Kakau via her office British High Commission satellite communication. She told her that her sister and mother were safe.

Tonga said, “Not only was there relief from knowing that they were safe, but there was such relief from knowing that electricity had since been restored, that people on island on the main island can actually call within the island.”

Tonga has yet to know the extent of the damage to her family’s home and others in the community.

Meanwhile, the tsunami surge also impacted Hawaii. The first BIIF High School Regatta since 2019 was canceled due to unsafe conditions.

Doug Veracruz, the Kai Opua Canoe Club President, said that canoes were floating and hitting against each other due to the surge.

He said they were awaiting word from the county and state about restoring the shore with more sand.

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“We’ve got some challenges, you know, unfortunately, when the water receded, it went back and took all the sand with it,” Vera Cruz said. “Not just from the beach, but in our area, and exposed a lot of rocks. So we’ll have to go back to the event that happened in 2011, where we had to bring sand in.”