Disabled Tonga man swims for 27 hrs after tsunami hit; people call him ‘Aquaman’

After being washed out to sea following the terrible tsunami, a 57-year-old specially-abled man from Tonga, Lisala Folau has been lauded as a “real-life Aquaman” for reportedly swimming for nearly 27 hours straight. Lisala Folau told local radio station Broadcom Broadcasting that he was painting his home on the tiny island of Atata on Saturday […]

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January 21, 2022

World

3 min

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After being washed out to sea following the terrible tsunami, a 57-year-old specially-abled man from Tonga, Lisala Folau has been lauded as a “real-life Aquaman” for reportedly swimming for nearly 27 hours straight. Lisala Folau told local radio station Broadcom Broadcasting that he was painting his home on the tiny island of Atata on Saturday night when his brother informed him of the tsunami caused by the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano eruption, according to the Guardian.

As waves shoved into his home, he asserted his brother and nephew came to his aid. “We moved to another part of the house when a bigger wave, this wave I would estimate was about not less than six meters, [arrived],” Folau said. “Bear in mind that I am disabled. I can’t walk properly … and when I can, I believe a baby can walk faster than I,” he added. “We hid to the eastern side of the house, the waves were coming from the west so we escaped that wave.”

Even very experienced swimmers have physical boundaries

Lisala Folau said he and his niece climbed a tree to get away from the surging water, while his brother raced away to call for assistance. Folau acknowledged he stayed afloat and swam 7.5 kilometers to Tongatapu’s main island. At around 10 p.m. on Sunday, he came to the shore after 27 hours. On social media, Folau’s story has gone viral. He flapped a rag towards a police boat hours later. But the people on board didn’t notice him on their trip to Atata. When the boat returned, he waved once again, but they missed him.

The real-life Aquaman kept swimming for several hours until he reached the island of Polo’a. “Absolutely extraordinary,” said Erika Radewagen of the American Samoa Swimming Association. “Considering that he was fleeing a tragic incident, to be under that type of pressure. Mentally and physically, with the added physical pressure of running in the dark.” “Even very experienced swimmers have physical boundaries and set parameters. But it takes a different mindset to do what he did,” she told the Guardian.

Atata, which has a population of about 60 people, is located about 8 kilometers northwest of Nuku’alofa. Tonga’s capital or a 30-minute boat ride away. The tsunami has nearly completely wrecked the island. Tongan naval ships are still scouring the smaller islands for survivors and transporting them to the bigger islands. At least three individuals were killed when the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupted on Saturday.

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