Tonga's 'real-life Aquaman' claims he survived 27-hour swim after tsunami

Eruption of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano sent waves across archipelago, killing at least three people

Lisala Folau, who lived on the Tongan island of Atata, told local media he spent 27 hours in the sea after getting swept out during Saturday’s tsunami.

A 57-year-old Tongan man has been called a 'real-life Aquaman' over claims he swam for 27 hours after getting swept out to sea during Saturday’s devastating tsunami.

The eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano on Saturday sent tsunami waves across the archipelago, which killed at least three people, damaged villages, resorts and buildings, and destroyed communication lines for the nation of about 105,000 people.

Lisala Folau, who lived on the small isolated island of Atata, with a population of about 60 people, told local media he was swept out to sea when the waves hit Tonga at about 7pm on Saturday.

Mr Folau, 57, told Tongan media agency Broadcom Broadcasting he was painting his home when he was alerted about the tsunami by his brother, and soon the waves had gone through his lounge. He said he climbed up a tree to escape, but when he got down another big wave swept him away. Mr Folau said he is disabled and cannot walk properly.

"I just floated, bashed around by the big waves that kept coming," he said.

Mr Folau said he kept floating and slowly managed to swim 7.5km to the main island of Tongatapu, reaching the shore 27 hours later at about 10pm on Sunday.

Reuters said it was unable to contact Mr Folau or verify the events.

Lisala Folau has been compared with comic book character Aquaman, played on screen by Jason Mamoa, after swimming for 27 hours after getting swept out to sea during Saturday’s devastating tsunami.

Mr Folau's story went viral among Tongan groups on Facebook and other social media.

"Real-life Aquaman," said one post on Facebook, referring to the comic book and film character. "He's a legend," said another post.

Atata, which is about 8km north-west of Tonga’s capital Nuku'alofa, or a 30-minute boat ride, has been almost entirely destroyed in the tsunami that hit the islands. Tongan naval boats are still surveying the smaller islands and evacuating people to the main islands.

Updated: January 20, 2022, 4:14 PM