DALLAS – More than $1 million from the United States and DFW Metroplex will provide disaster relief to the island nation of Tonga.
Many North Texans have family ties to the Polynesian country.
This weekend’s Earth X conference, taking place in Dallas, kicks off its Tonga Strong effort to help the country recover months after a massive volcanic eruption wiped out parts of Tonga.
It has been months since an underwater volcanic eruption in January triggered tsunamis that devastated the small island nation of Tonga.
PICTURES: Satellite images show volcanic eruption that triggered Pacific tsunami
“The islands that have been affected, a few have been virtually wiped out. The option for them is to rebuild their homes in the same place or relocate them,” said Viliami Va’inga Tone, Tonga’s UN ambassador.
At the Island Resilience Summit at Earth X in Dallas on Friday, Tone was on hand to receive a $1.5 million grant from the US Trade and Development Agency.
“When the underwater volcanic eruption occurred, causing tsunamis that damaged the Kingdom of Tonga, it made headlines for a few days, and many relief efforts took place immediately after,” said said Matt Tranchin, senior vice president. president of Earth X. “What we want to do is highlight these are issues that communities are still struggling with.”
PREVIOUS STORY: Tonga volcano eruption: Tongans in North Texas struggle to communicate with loved ones
The funds will help the country’s recovery efforts to rebuild and strengthen critical infrastructure, such as telecommunication lines, which were cut immediately afterwards, cutting Tonga off from the rest of the world.
“We really have that in mind and mentality, whatever you do, you try to make sure that you’re more sustainable in the future, should there be another hurricane or tsunami,” Tone added.
Tarrant County is home to one of the largest Tongan populations in the United States, with students from Euless Trinity High School at Friday’s event to share their culture.
Many in North Texas, like Ofa Faiva-Siale, also have family in Tonga who are still dealing with the aftermath of a volcanic eruption.
“Everyone is adapting and adjusting,” Faiva-Siale said. “However, the country is not put back in place. It is not yet rebuilt.”
But help from around the world is helping Tonga slowly rebuild.
“They are islanders. They are used to the climate and the force of nature that they face daily and on a generational basis. They are just moving on, living and surviving,” Faiva-Siale said.
Click here for more information on how to support the Tonga Strong effort.
Proceeds donated to the Tonga Strong effort will go to organizations working directly to rebuild the country.