Shirtless flag bearer's family safe after cyclone devastates Tonga

Pita Taufatofua, who has become an unlikely star of the past two Olympic Games thanks to his viral shirtlessness, said his family is safe after Cyclone Gita tore through Tonga on Tuesday.

The Pacific island nation was hit hard by the tropical storm in the middle of the night. It left around 40 percent of houses in the Tongan capital of Nuku’alofa damaged, according to local officials. The country’s parliament building was destroyed, and there was significant flooding.

As of late Tuesday local time, there had been no confirmed deaths, but there have been reports of serious injuries.

Taufatofua, though, indicated his family members had avoided the worst of the storm despite some damage to their homes:

Taufatofua is competing at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, but understandably thinking about his homeland. “Things like this really put life and what’s important in life into perspective,” he wrote on social media earlier Tuesday, before getting in contact with his family:

“Please stay tuned over the coming days and weeks on how to assist our little country,” Taufatofua wrote in the first post.

Taufatofua was born in Australia but raised in Tonga, where his family currently lives. He wrote in the social media post that he wished he could be back home to help.

Taufatofua competed at the 2016 Rio Olympics in taekwondo. He then made a remarkable switch to cross-country skiing, and qualified for the 2018 Winter Games in his final chance to do so.

At 34, he is the only athlete representing Tonga in PyeongChang.

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Viral Tongan flag bearer Pita Taufatofua goes shirtless in frigid Pyeongchang
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Viral Tongan flag bearer Pita Taufatofua goes shirtless in frigid Pyeongchang
Tonga's flagbearer Pita Taufatofua (C-R) takes a selfie as his country's delegation parades during the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Pyeongchang Stadium on February 9, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / - (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 09: Flag bearer Pita Taufatofua of Tonga and teammates enter the stadium during the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium on February 9, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 09: Flag bearer Pita Taufatofua of Tonga and teammates enter the stadium during the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium on February 9, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 09: Flag bearer Pita Taufatofua of Tonga leads the team during the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium on February 9, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 09: Flag bearer Pita Taufatofua of Tonga leads the team during the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium on February 9, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 09: Flag bearer Pita Taufatofua of Tonga leads the team during the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium on February 9, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 09: Flag bearer Pita Taufatofua of Tonga leads the team during the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium on February 9, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
Tonga flag-bearer Pita Taufatofua during the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the PyeongChang Olympic Stadium in South Korea. (Photo by David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 09: Flag bearer Pita Taufatofua of Tonga leads his country during the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium on February 9, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 09: Flag bearer Pita Taufatofua of Tonga and teammates arrives during the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium on February 9, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Tonga's flagbearer Pita Taufatofua leads his country's delegation as he parades in shirtless traditional attire better suited for the tropics during the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Pyeongchang Stadium on February 9, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Martin BUREAU (Photo credit should read MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 09: Flag bearer Pita Taufatofua of Tonga leads the team during the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium on February 9, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Opening ceremony ? Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium - Pyeongchang, South Korea ? February 9, 2018 - Pita Taufatofua of Tonga carries the national flag. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Opening ceremony ? Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium - Pyeongchang, South Korea ? February 9, 2018 - Pita Taufatofua of Tonga carries the national flag. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Opening ceremony ? Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium - Pyeongchang, South Korea ? February 9, 2018 - Pita Taufatofua of Tonga carries the national flag. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Opening ceremony ? Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium - Pyeongchang, South Korea ? February 9, 2018 - Pita Taufatofua of Tonga carries the national flag. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
FIS Nordic Ski World Championships - Men's Cross Country - Qualification - Lahti, Finland - 23/2/17 - Pita Taufatofua of Tonga competes. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
FIS Nordic Ski World Championships - Men's Cross Country - Qualification - Lahti, Finland - 23/2/17 - Pita Taufatofua of Tonga competes. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
FIS Nordic Ski World Championships - Men's Cross Country - Qualification - Lahti, Finland - 23/2/17 - Pita Taufatofua of Tonga competes. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
FIS Nordic Ski World Championships - Men's Cross Country - Qualification - Lahti, Finland - 23/2/17 - Pita Taufatofua of Tonga competes. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
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