‘Real-life Aquaman’: Differently-abled man survives at sea after being swept away by tsunami in Tonga

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The small Pacific island of Tonga suffered massive damage from back-to-back volcanic eruptions that also led to severe tsunami waves. However, amid all the loss and devastation, a differently-abled man’s survival in the face of adversity has emerged as a beacon of hope for all.

Lisala Fola is being hailed a real-life ‘Aquaman’ after he survived despite being in the waters for 27 hours after tsunami waves landed on his home island of Atata. After being tossed around in the water amid strong current, he managed to reach the shore, leaving all relieved but also surprised.

The eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai, an underwater volcano, left ashes and plumes covering miles and miles of land, and swept away people’s homes and holiday resorts in the archipelago. However, for the 57-year-old Tongan man, a retired carpenter, his swimming skills came to his aid.

Recounting his survival story in an interview with Tongan media agency Broadcom Broadcasting, he said: “I just floated, bashed around by the big waves that kept coming. Bear in mind that I am disabled. I can’t walk properly.”

According to The Age, Folau was alerted to the tsunami by his brother and hid on a tree. However, once he got down after the first wave, a bigger wave followed and swept him and his family out to sea.

Lisala Folau (wearing blue printed shirt), a Tongan man who says he swam for around 27 hours after getting swept to sea by Saturday’s tsunami, sits with other people of Atata island in Nuku’alofa, Tonga. (Source: Broadcom Broadcasting FM87.5 via Reuters)

“It was dark and we could not see each other. Very soon I could not hear my niece calling any more, but I could hear my son calling,” he said. The man said he didn’t respond to the calls, as he didn’t want any of his family member to put their lives at risk in order to save him.

Folau said he slowly managed to swim 7.5 kilometers (4.7 miles) to the main island of Tongatapu, reaching the shore 27 hours later on Sunday night, Reuters reported. “On the eighth time I thought, the next time I go underwater that’s it, because my arms were the only things that were keeping me above water,” he told the news agency. Finally, in his ninth attempt he could find a log to latch onto.

And while he has been going viral as Aquaman, Flolau told the news agency that he is unaware of DC Universe character, essayed by Jason Momoa in the films.

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