Man Swept Out To Sea After Underground Volcano Eruption Survives By Floating For 26 Hours

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Melanie Wilcox Contributor
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A disabled Tongan man survived for 26 hours at sea after a 20-foot tsunami wave caused by an underground volcano swept him into the water, The New York Times reported.

Lisala Folau, a retired carpenter, told the Tongan radio station Broadcom FM that he was painting his home on the island of Atata on Saturday, Jan. 15, when his brother alerted him of a tsunami wave coming to the island, according to a translated transcript of the interview George Lavaka, an editor at Broadcom, posted on Facebook. (RELATED: This Survival Tool Kit Will Save Your Life During Emergencies)

“I left everything and try to [escape] but bear in mind that I am disabled,” Folau said. “I can’t walk properly, both my [legs] are not working properly and when I can, I believe a baby can walk faster than I.”

Folau, 57, and his niece, Elisiva, were eventually swept out to sea in the dark, according to the interview. Folau said he could hear his son calling, but stayed silent, according to the transcript.

“My thinking was if I answered him he would come and we would both suffer so I just floated, bashed around by the big waves that kept coming,” Folau said.

In hopes his family would find his body, he clung to a tree for 12 hours before seeing a police patrol boat going to Atata at 7 a.m., according to The New York Times. Even though he grabbed a rag and waved, the boat did not see him and headed back to Tonga, according to the outlet.

Folau then arrived at Polo’a at 6 p.m., calling for help without anybody there.

At about 9 p.m. he crawled at Sopu, the western edge of the capital Nuku’alofa on Tongatapu, the main island in the area. Using timber as a walking stick, he found someone in a vehicle, according to the outlet.

The driver took him home and the people of the village were shocked he survived.

“It was the manna of God to me and my family, and the church as well as Atata, so unexpected that I survived after being washed away, floating and surviving the dangers I just faced,” he said, according to the interview.