In order to escape being overwhelmed by the devastating tsunami, an elderly Tongan man raced for 27 hours along eight miles in ocean to save his life.

Lisala Folau (57), a retired carpenter was on Atata island with his niece and son around 6pm Saturday. A 20ft wave carried them far from the shore when they were caught by a tsunami. 

Adrift and alone, he spent the next 27 hours swimming between uninhabited islands and trying in vain to signal passing boats before eventually reaching the mainland, where he was picked up by a passing car.

Lisala, who suffers from problems in her legs, causes him to “walk slower than a baby” and said that he chose not to call 911 because he doesn’t want either his nephew or son to lose their lives trying save him. Both are missing tragically.

Lisala Folau, 57, a retired carpenter who struggles to use his legs, survived the Tongan tsunami by swimming eight miles in 27 hours to reach safety

Lisala Folau, aged 57 and a retired carpenter with limited mobility, was able to swim 8 miles in 27 hours for safety after the Tongan tsunami.

Lisala's journey took him between several uninhabited islands off the coast of Tonga's main island, Tongatapu, before he eventually reached safety

Lisala’s trip took him to several islands uninhabited off Tongatapu on the Tonga coast before he reached safety.

Lisala, Tongan Radio Station Broadcom FM spoke about her extraordinary experience. She said that he first heard about the tsunami from his brother. 

The family, he said, ran out of their home and scaled a tree in an attempt to avoid the waves that werehed under them.

They thought they had escaped danger and decided to climb down. However, the island was hit again by another wave. Lisala believes it to have been more than 20 feet tall. It carried them all out to sea. 

Stranded miles from shore, Lisala said he could not see his son or niece in the water because it was dark, but he could hear them calling out to him.

The voice of his niece stopped after some time but the son didn’t stop calling.

Lisala stated that he chose to ignore his niece and nephew’s cries and keep quiet because he did not want them to have to save him.

“The truth is that no son can leave his father,” he said. However, I was his father so I kept my mouth shut, because if he asked me about me, he’d try to rescue him.

I thought, “If the worst happens, it will be only me.”

Lisala finally found a fallen tree, and she decided to hang on to it believing, even if his body was lost, that his family would still have a chance to find him.

But, instead of dying, he actually drifted to nearby Toketoke Island – which is uninhabited – where he arrived early on Sunday morning.

Lisala was found by a passing car late Sunday, and has now spoken about his experience with a local radio station (pictured above)

Lisala, who was found late Sunday by a vehicle passing by, spoke about her experience at a local radio station. (pictured above)

Pictures have emerged on social media showing the scale of the devastation in Tonga following the tsunami. The island nation is facing imminent water and food shortages after crops and drinking sources were inundated with salt water and ash from a devastating volcanic explosion which triggered a 50ft tsunami, aid agencies have warned

Social media has seen photos showing the extent of Tonga’s destruction following the tsunami. Aid agencies warn that the island nation faces imminent food and water shortages as a result of the tsunami. The 50-foot tsunami was caused by a volcanic eruption.

A man surveys the scene of devastation with debris strewn across the road in Tonga in the wake of the tsunami. Water which tens of thousands of people rely on to drink has been polluted, the Red Cross said today, as Tonga's parliamentary speaker added that 'all agriculture' on the islands has also been destroyed

One man looks at the devastation caused by the tsunami’s aftermath, as debris is scattered across Tonga’s roads. The tsunami has polluted water, which is essential for tens to thousands of people, according to the Red Cross. Today’s Tonga parliamentary speaker also stated that “all agricultural land on the islands” has been lost.

Lisala stated that he took a rest for about an hour while using a cloth to signal two boats. But neither one of the passing boats saw him.

Then, around 10am Sunday, he made the decision to swim four miles to Polo’a Island – which is also uninhabited – in order to get closer to the mainland.

The swim took Lisala around eight hours and he arrived on Polo’a around 6pm, before swimming more than a mile to Tonga’s main island of Tongatapu.  

He was eventually found around 9pm in Sopu, on the outskirts of capital city Nuku’alofa, where he was picked up alive by a passing vehicle.

The family of his deceased father was informed. His daughter wrote an emotional message on Facebook thanking Jesus for saving her dad’s life at sea. 

However, Lisala and her niece are not being found.

Tonga is in chaos since Saturday’s eruption of the Hunga Tonga volcano, which caused a tsunami that reached 50ft and ravaged the island.

An underwater cable for internet communication was cut by the blast, cutting off all communications to many islands. Updates have therefore been rare.

Officially, there are three deaths and a number of wounded. Tonga does not know how many others may be missing.

The damage to the main island was largely restricted to its west coast. There were many buildings that were destroyed, however, some smaller islands were badly damaged.

Atata was Lisala’s home. Nearly every structure has been damaged or destroyed, and there is no water supply after the water supplies have been contaminated with ash.

The first humanitarian flights departed for Tonga early Thursday, carrying much needed aid supplies to the volcano and tsunami-devastated Pacific island nation. Pictured: A helicopter on the deck of  HMAS Adelaide en route to Tonga on Wednesday

Early Thursday saw the departure of first humanitarian aircraft for Tonga, which carried much-needed aid to the tsunami-ravaged Pacific island nation. Pictured: A helicopter on the deck of  HMAS Adelaide en route to Tonga on Wednesday

Pictured: A plume rises over Tonga after the underwater volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai erupted in this satellite image taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite operated by Japan Meteorological Agency on January 15, 2022

Pictured: A plume rises over Tonga after the underwater volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai erupted in this satellite image taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite operated by Japan Meteorological Agency on January 15, 2022

Similar situations are unfolding on Mango and Fonoifua islands. Tarpaulins can be used to shelter people. All four islands have been evacuated.

Tonga described the catastrophe as “unprecedented” and demanded international assistance. Flights from Australia and New Zealand took off on Thursday, after the runway at the airport was cleared of ash so that planes could land.

Ships equipped with water purification equipment are also on the way. They are expected to arrive Friday.

Today, an Australian Globemaster plane left Brisbane carrying relief aid. Australia provided $1 million in aid and today, two Royal Australian Air Force planes will land in Tonga.

Australian High Commission to Tonga stated that the vessels were loaded with essential humanitarian supplies and telecommunications equipment in order to reestablish communication between Tonga’s main island, and its remote islands.

HMAS Adelaide, which will be carrying water purification equipment as well as humanitarian supplies, will sail off Brisbane from Friday, according to the statement.

New Zealand’s Foreign Ministry said the country has sent another C-130 Hercules out of Auckland. The plane will be landing in Nuku’alofa, New Zealand at approximately 4:45 p.m. New Zealand.

Nanaia Mahuta stated in a statement that the aircraft was carrying humanitarian aid, disaster relief supplies and water containers.

She said that the delivery of the supplies will not be made contactless. The aircraft can be expected to remain on the ground for as long as 90 minutes before it returns to New Zealand. Tonga declares that it is COVID-19 unaffected and worries about the possibility of aid staff bringing the virus.

Tonga’s aid agencies warned of imminent food and water shortages following the inundation of crops with salt water from the volcanic explosion that triggered a tsunami measuring 50 feet.