‘It scared the heck out of me’: Utah Tongan community still in shock over volcano destruction

Jan 24, 2022, 5:35 PM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 6:05 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Emotions were still running high in the Tongan community of Utah after a massive volcano eruption and tsunami just over a week ago.

Ivoni Nash hosts a Tongan radio show in Salt Lake that airs live once a week.

The latest show on Sunday included many Utahns who still can’t believe what happened.

Many were still trying to reach loved ones on the islands.

“They are still in awe. They are really sad and there is a lot of crying on the radio. There are lots of crying of people,” said an emotional Nash.

Nash is also the program director at the National Tongan American Society in Murray — a nonprofit organization that helps Pacific Islanders. She remembers last weekend very well when that massive volcano eruption hit followed by a deadly tsunami.

“It scared the heck out of me. It shook my whole body,” she said. “It’s really scary because I haven’t gotten ahold of anyone I know.”

Fahina Tavake-pasi, executive director of the National Tongan American Society, said she also spent a lot of time crying.


Tongan Latter-day Saints on Tongatapu gather, send supplies to outer islands


“The first thing to come to mind is like cry,” said an emotional Tavake-pasi as she thinks about what happened in Tonga. “You feel helpless because you can’t do anything. The community back there is our family our relatives our friends and neighbors.”

Tavake-pasi said she too is still trying to reach loved ones. She’s also reached out to Tonga’s Prime Minister to see what Utahn’s can do to help.

Getting supplies from Utah to Tonga is nearly impossible because of the distance and difficulty of actually getting on the Island.

The National Tongan American Society has set up a GoFundMe* account for those who want to help.

Tavake-pasi said the only comfort is that the blast killed three people when it could have been so much worse.

“It’s a total miracle the way it blew up and how close Tonga is to where it blew up. It’s amazing that whole island didn’t go under,” Tavaki-pasi said.

*KSL TV does not assure that the money deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account, you should consult your own advisors and otherwise proceed at your own risk.

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‘It scared the heck out of me’: Utah Tongan community still in shock over volcano destruction