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Tonga eruption: Communications Could be Down for ‘4 Weeks’

January 19, 2022, 04.57 PM - An underwater cable that provides the Pacific island nation of Tonga with most of its telecommunication links with the rest of the world will need at least a month to be repaired following the recent volcanic eruption, the New Zealand government said on Wednesday, Jan. 19

The Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai underwater volcano erupted on Saturday dispersing a thick layer of ash across large parts of the island nation and causing a destructive tsunami that was felt as far away as Peru, Chile, and the United States.

The cable is broken in two places and will require extensive repairs.

Also readFive Indonesian Citizens Remain Unreachable after Tsunami Hits Pacific Island of Tonga

“US cable company SubCom advises it will take at least four weeks for Tonga’s cable connection to be repaired,” the New Zealand government said.

Multiple complications

International mobile phone network operator Digicel said it had set up an interim connection via satellite, but this would be “limited and patchy, covering about 10 percent of usual capacity.”

However, the lack of digital and telecom communications is not the only problem facing Tonga.

An aircraft laden with water, generators, and hygiene kits is ready to fly from New Zealand, but cannot take off until the runway at the main island’s international airport is cleared of a thick layer of volcanic ash. Australia also has aircraft ready to fly.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that a blanket of ash 5 to 10 centimeters (2 to 4 inches) thick had accumulated on the runway.

Also readAustralia, New Zealand Begin Aerial Inspection of Tonga after Tsunami

This can prove dangerous to modern aircraft as the ash can gather inside the engines. “The ash has proven more difficult to clear than was expected,” said Jonathan Veitch, Fiji-based UN coordinator on the crisis.

It is expected that the runway will be cleared later on Wednesday.

Aid missions on their way

New Zealand also dispatched two military ships on Tuesday that are expected to arrive on Friday.


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