SALT LAKE CITY – Utahns with loved ones in Tonga are pitching in to help them recover from Cyclone Gita.
“It's heartbreaking,” said Mike Tuiasoa.
Six thousand miles away in Salt Lake City, it’s been hard for Tuiasoa to stay focused at work while his family and friends suffer in Tonga.
On Monday, Cyclone Gita left a path of destruction in the South Pacific Island Nation, destroying homes, schools, crops and the country’s parliament house.
With most of the main island without power and water, people are trying to pick up the pieces.
“The devastation was unlike anything anyone has ever seen before," Tuiasoa said. "It's surreal to look at the pictures and the video and see where my family lives."
The Red Cross is on the ground distributing food and water, but the need for basic supplies could last for months until people can rebuild.
“My classmates from Dixie just decided to pull together, and let's at least take care of our own friends and family," Tuiasoa said.
Tuiasoa and his friends are collecting donations.
“Things like water, canned goods, sanitary items, toiletries," he said.
They’ve set up a GoFundMe account to pay for shipping the items to Tonga.
“Unfortunately, it takes a while to ship things down to Tonga. Looking at a couple weeks each time,” Tuiasoa said.
One in four Tongans living in the United States call Utah home.
Many like Tuiasoa will go to great lengths to show they care.
“The Tongan community in Salt Lake is enormous, very supportive,” Tuiasoa said. “As long as there's a relief need in Tonga, we'll just keep on sending.”
For a list of items to donate and drop off locations, click here.
To donate to the Dixie Family Tonga Relief Fund, click here.