The brother of a British woman who was swept away by the Tonga coastal tsunami on Saturday and is still missing, told the Guardian he feared for her safety.
“What are we, 48 hours later? I don’t think it’s going to have a happy ending,” an emotional Nick Eleini said.
So far no casualties in Tonga – which has a population of just over 100,000 – have been confirmed. Although there are unconfirmed reports that three people were swept away by the waves and two have so far been found.
The impact of the tsunami and the resulting ash cloud that blanketed the islands is feared to be huge, with NGOs warning of contaminated drinking water, seawater destroying crops, as well as damage to homes and infrastructure.
Eleini, who lives in Sydney, spoke to the Guardian as he returned to the UK to be with his mother, Jennifer. Her sister, Angela Glover, 50, was swept off the beach with her husband and four or five of the couple’s dogs by a tsunami triggered by a huge volcanic eruption. Glover ran an animal shelter in Tonga.
“The tsunami hit around 5:30 p.m. local time, I believe,” Eleini said. “Angela and her husband, James, were swept away. James was able to hold on to a tree for quite a while, but Angela couldn’t and was carried away with the dogs, I think four or five dogs.
“They were guarding a house on the west coast of the island [of Tongatapu, Tonga’s main island]. James returned to their own home on the south coast of the island, but Angela did not come. James contacted the police and the British Embassy there, where he was able to inform us of what had happened.
Eleini, who wept as she spoke about her sister, said the search was ongoing. “One of the dogs was found, but Angela was not found.
“It’s atrocious. I can’t even believe the words are coming out of my mouth, to be honest.
Gathering information about Tonga has been nearly impossible since the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai submarine volcano erupted on Saturday afternoon local time, followed by a tsunami, which saw waves of 1.2 meter crashing into islands, swirling around buildings and into homes.
The undersea communications cable, which is the key to Tonga’s communications network, has apparently been damaged and families outside Tonga are desperately waiting for news as communications remained down across most of the country. Diaspora families from Tonga in Australia, New Zealand and the United States are already fundraising for recovery efforts and preparing for rebuilding programmes.
About 20% of Tongans live below the poverty line, and the country’s GDP per capita is just above US$5,000. Much of the country’s economy relies on remittances, with overseas Tongans sending money back to the islands.
Glover’s husband, James, was able to contact his family in the UK via a satellite phone provided by the British Embassy to inform them of what had happened.
The huge eruption of the underwater volcano, considered the largest in 30 years, could be heard and felt over 2,000 km away.
Two people drowned on a beach in northern Peru after abnormally high waves were recorded in some coastal areas after the volcano. The deaths occurred Saturday at a beach in the Lambayeque region, Peru’s National Civil Defense Institute said in a statement.
Glover, who was born in Brighton and has a background in marketing and advertising, has lived in Tonga since around 2015. She started an animal shelter called Tonga Animal Welfare Society to care for and rehome stray dogs.
“She’s always wanted to travel to the South Pacific, and she’s always been drawn to swimming with whales, and Tonga is one of the places you can do that,” Eleini said. “She married James around 2014 and convinced him to follow her to the Pacific and they settled in Tonga.”
James Glover had a tattoo parlor in London before moving to Tonga. He established the Happy Sailor tattoo parlor in Nuku’alofa, the country’s capital.
Eleini believes her sister might have been in Ahau, a village east of a small strip of land west of Tongatapu, when the tsunami hit.
“I thought if they were home they would have been fine, but it’s a very small strip of land, only a few meters above sea level. All I can speculate is that the waves came and carried them away.