Pita Taufatofua, who went viral during the Olympics for being oiled up as he carried Tonga’s flag at the opening ceremonies, revealed Saturday his father and other members of his family were missing following an underwater volcanic eruption and subsequent tsunami that hit the country.

Taufatofua’s father is the governor in Haapai and following the disaster, all communication had been cut off.


Pita Taufatofua trains at Jindalee Boat Ramp on December 23, 2021 in Brisbane, Australia.  (Chris Hyde/Getty Images for Samsung)

"As you know a large volcanic eruption has hit off Haapai in Tonga. My current knowledge is that my Father (now the Governor of Haapai) was trying to fly back to Haapai from Tongatapu straight after the opening of parliament. After getting to the airport his flight was cancelled due to the volcanic eruption. Last we heard he was securing our home in Veitongo right on the waters edge," he wrote on Instagram.


"Our family in Haapai has had all communication cut off. The King has called all the reservists and armed forces to prepare for assistance. The information I've been sent shows the tsunami going over both Popua and the main town in Tongatapu, Nuku'alofa. No word yet from Haapai. I'll be keeping you updated as I know more. What I do know is that the Tongan people are some of the strongest most resilient people to grace Gods earth. In times of great struggle is when their true spirit shines."

In this satellite image taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite, and released by the agency, shows an undersea volcano eruption at the Pacific nation of Tonga Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022.  (Japan Meteorology Agency via AP)

In a subsequent post, Taufatofua wrote he still hadn’t heard from his father.

"All communications from Tonga are still down after yesterday's volcanic eruption and Tsunami. Still no word from my Father or Family in Haapai. Initial reports showing a catastrophe through the islands. I have just set up a fundraiser as In the coming days and weeks will inevitably need all the assistance we can," he added.

On the Pacific nation, home to about 105,000 people, video posted to social media showed large waves crashing ashore and flooding some structures. Satellite images showed a huge eruption near the island, with a plume of ash, steam and gas rising like a mushroom cloud above the water.

The disaster sparked tsunami advisories in Hawaii, Alaska and other parts of the Pacific coast in the U.S.

The Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano is located about 40 miles north of Nuku’alofa. In 2014 and 2015, a series of eruptions in the area created a new small island and disrupted international air travel to the Pacific archipelago for several days.

Flag bearers Malia Paseka and Pita Taufatofua of Team Tonga lead their team out during the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on July 23, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)


Internet connectivity on the island was lost at around 6:40 p.m. local time. Tonga gets its internet via an undersea cable which was presumably damaged in the eruption. Southern Cross Cable Network said it didn’t know yet "if the cable is cut or just suffering power loss," chief technical officer Dean Veverka said. He said he assumed the eruption was responsible.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.