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Tonga's shirtless flag bearer's fundraiser for tsunami relief gets nearly $400K in donations after just 2 days

Olympian Pita Taufatofua's started a fundraiser to raise relief funds after a devastating tsunami.
Credit: AP
Malia Paseka and Pita Taufatofua, of Tonga, carry their country's flag during the opening ceremony in the Olympic Stadium at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 23, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (Hannah McKay/Pool Photo via AP)

TOKYO, Japan — A certain Tongan Olympian, who went viral in 2016 and 2020 for being the country's shirtless flagbearer at the international games, is making an impact on the internet once again.

This time, Pita Taufatofua isn't causing a stir online because of his glistening oiled-up abs. He started a fundraiser to raise relief funds after a tsunami devastated his home country. The online fundraiser has only been up for two days and already has garnered nearly $400,000 in donations and counting.

"In preparation and through the recovery efforts we are seeking your donations to help our island Kingdom," the Taekwondo athlete wrote on the fundraising website.

A volcanic eruption made waves in the Pacific on Saturday evening, with a plume of ash, steam, and gas rising like a mushroom above the ocean's surface. The sonic boom was said to be heard as far away as Alaska.

While the scale of the damage to Tonga is not exactly clear at this time, houses across the Polynesian kingdom are destroyed, people are without basic necessities, and reported deaths continue to surface.

The catastrophic incident shut off internet to the island and left families anxious to get in touch as communication remains extremely limited. 

For Taufatofua, this effort is personal. 

In an Instagram post, the Olympian said his father was trying to take a flight after the opening of parliament. He last heard his father went back to secure the family home after discovering his flight was canceled, but he hasn't heard from him since.

"In the coming days, weeks we will need your help," he wrote.

Funds will initially go toward helping those most in need in Tonga, including helping with damage to schools, hospitals, and other infrastructure, according to Taufatofua.

"Your assistance and support in this time of need is greatly appreciated," he said.