EULESS, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) - Tongan families in North Texas are still struggling to connect with relatives more than three days after a volcanic eruption and tsunami hit the island country in the South Pacific Ocean.
The social media messaging services they relied on to communicate have gone silent since Saturday.
Tongan churches in and around Euless have become key for information sharing and prayer services, while people wait for direct communications to be restored.
"It's very, very difficult," said Alex Latu, an associate pastor at Holy Trinity Church. "And you know, people are so anxious to find not only their families back home but also to find out what is going on."
Surveillance pictures have shown ash covered buildings and runways, with damage from tsunami waves the government said had reached nearly 50 feet in some places. At least three deaths have been reported.
Most families in North Texas have not been able to speak directly to relatives. Faiana Prescott Funaki said she had been able to communicate with her in-laws up until the eruption, but nothing since.
A pastor at Martin United Methodist Church, Funaki said people had been attending prayer services, while also facing the reality there was little more they could do for now. Tonga had prevented people from traveling into the country due to the pandemic, and there was no way right now even to send money to relatives there.
Some families were taking the news hard, she said, but there was also some amazement that the destruction didn't appear to be worse.
Ofa Faiva-Siale said families in the country are resilient, having grown up around water rising, and wind.
"This is a brand new thing having to deal with the eruption of a volcano," she said. "It's brand new, but people are resilient."
She was also still trying to get details from her extended family, and was concerned about possible damage to the cemetery where her mother is buried.
Latu said after past disasters community members have arranged to fill shipping containers with building materials, clothing and other items needed on the island.
Planning was already moving forward for that this time, once the extent of the need is known.
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