March 3, 2022

On the 20th of December 2021, an eruption began on Hunga Tonga–Hunga Haʻapai, an uninhabited volcanic island and submarine volcano of the Tongan archipelago in the southern Pacific Ocean. The eruption reached a very large and powerful climax nearly 4 weeks later, on the 15th of January 2022.

On the very same day, Tonga Table Tennis Federation (TTTF) held their National Championships event and the volcanic eruption started before the Women’s singles final and Men’s singles semi-finals. 

ITTF-Oceania spoke to Tonga Table Tennis Federation (TTTF) CEO, Netina Latu Vea. Netina said that unfortunately, four people died from the tsunami.

At the moment all centres and schools are closed, not because small islands were wiped out by the tsunami, but because they went into lockdown on the 1st of February 2022 with their first positive cases of COVID-19. Sports activities and gathering in large groups are prohibited for the time being.
Netina mentioned that there are no current activities happening, but TTTF helped out by sending table tennis equipment to two tsunami evacuee shelters last week.

TTTF delivers table tennis equipment to the ‘Atata shelter.

The two evacuee shelters at local church halls are for people from two small islands that were wiped out by the tsunami: MANGO and ‘ATATA. People from ‘Atata are staying at the Church of Tonga hall at Kapeta, and Mango: at the Wesleyan Church Hall at Longolongo, both shelters are close to the capital – Nuku’alofa. Both groups wrote to TTTF requesting table tennis equipment to use. The people who were affected by the volcanic tsunami are being assisted with social and psychological issues. There are currently about 80+ people in both shelters including children, youth, and adults. 
TTTF provided all necessary table tennis equipment to the shelters: 4 TT adult bats, 4 TT kids bats, a TT net, 20 TT balls, and the new Bounce it Back schools manual. The equipment is only for the time being and is expected to last for the next 3 – 4 months for the people who are staying in the evacuation shelters. The Tongan Government are building temporary houses for the evacuees and it is predicted that families will then be moved from the shelters to the temporary houses in about 3 – 4 months time. The table tennis equipment will be at the shelter for as long as the evacuees at the shelters. In order to send the table tennis equipment to the shelters TTTF had to obtain a permit from the Government.

Sione Vailea, town officer of Mango receive the equipment from TTTF 

Netina also mentioned that TTTF wanted to send a development officer to visit Mango and ‘Atata shelters at least once a week. Unfortunately, the visit had to be delayed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the people from these islands are against having visitors from other islands in fear of COVID-19. The Tongan people are already on their fourth week of lockdown. Children conduct school through the radio, however with the internet back on some of the programs will be easier to reach. 

The Open Men’s singles and Open Women’s singles event was interrupted. When we asked Netina if they are going to continue the event, she said that they don’t have a set date yet for these matches but sooner or later they will finish it.

ITTF-Oceania hopes that Tonga recovers soon and we will be able to see the completed results of their National Championships.