Tonga’s Princess Frederica Lupe’uluiva Tuita Filipe has reflected on the emotional moment she thought she was about to die after the island nation was devastated by a volcanic eruption and tsunami in January.
The Hunga Tonga–Hunga Haʻapai eruption and its ensuing tsunami killed five people and injured 18 others after it struck on the afternoon of January 15, destroying homes, cutting off communication services and covering much of the country in ash.
“We all thought that was it. We all thought that we were going to die,” she told Breakfast.
“Some of us just accepted it but others were struggling to accept it. I remember sitting there and I thought to myself, ‘Lord, if this is your will, take my life,’” she told Breakfast, becoming emotional.
Princess Frederica was separated from her own children the night the tsunami waves swept into mainland Tongatapu and submerged other neighbouring islands.
She said the gates of the Royal family’s estate were left open for all who were seeking refuge and safety.
Cars began streaming in to the residence which is located on the highest point near the township on Tonga’s main island Nuku’alofa.
“It was very emotional but it really bonded everyone. It brought us together knowing that in those moments, we were all feeling the same things.”
The Tongan Royal said they were “given a second chance at life and it’s such a blessing”.
“We send you all in Auckland our love and our gratitude for all the prayers and all the assistance that you’ve sent over.”
Princess Frederica said the days following the natural disasters were devastating.
“Everything was covered in ash. We didn’t think there was much of a future with our farm, with water. We were all in a little bit of a panic,” she said.
Locals have been wearing masks and trying to protect themselves from breathing in the toxic ash from the eruption.
As the ash and dust settled, the country experienced its first-ever Covid-19 community outbreak.
“Covid was going to enter the Kingdom eventually,” she said.
“All the dust that appeared on the Kingdom prepared us for lockdown.”
Donations have been pouring in over the past three weeks from around the world, but officials say more is needed as the long-term recovery continues.
“We are so grateful for all the support and aid that’s being sent our way,” said the Tongan Royal, adding there was still more work to be done.
Families in some areas suffered damage to their homes and lost furniture but are not eligible for some of the government assistance because their homes were not completely destroyed.
Princess Frederica said she and a small team of friends were working to provide support and raise funds for these families by raising funds to buy tents, clothing, refrigerators and more.
While phone and internet connection to Tonga remains intermittent, Elon Musk has a thrown a lifeline to the island kingdom.
Fiji’s Minister of Communications Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has confirmed engineers from Musk’s SpaceX team is now in Fiji working on a Starlink Gateway station to reconnect Tonga to the world.
Princess Frederica had previously responded to a tweet by Musk asking people in Tonga to confirm if they needed the assistance.
She said the internet was crucial to their survival.
“We were so happy to hear that Elon Musk and his team have responded to our cry for help for internet.
“Internet is so important especially for our banks and our ATMS because during this crisis cash is king and the shops don’t accept cheques. Everyone just wants cash and people can’t access their accounts quickly enough without the internet,” she said
“People are just waiting to access the bank accounts so that they can withdraw money for food and water for the lockdown and for their homes,” she said.
SOURCE: TVNZ/ PACNEWS