Tsunami-Hit Tonga Reconnects to Internet After 5 Weeks of Outage

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Tonga’s Internet connection was restored on Tuesday, five weeks after the Pacific island nation had been cut off from the outside world owing to a massive volcano eruption and tsunami that severed an undersea cable between Tonga and Fiji.

Digicel Tonga issued a statement on Tuesday stating that data connectivity was restored in the main island of Tongatapu after “multiple faults and breaks” on the cable were repaired.

“The submarine repair vessel worked for more than two weeks to fix it,” the company said.

Samiuela Fonua, the chairperson of state-owned Tonga Cable Ltd., said that about 90 kilometers (56 miles) of cable damaged by the tsunami had been replaced.

The fix means that Tonga Cable can now focus on repairing a second severed cable that connects some of the outer islands to the main island, Fonua said. That cable runs close to the undersea volcano.

Digicel noted that Tonga’s domestic cable remains down, resulting in no connection to Vava’u island.

“Digicel’s technical team has set up the satellite link to restore connectivity for Ha’apai island and are working on trying to get Vava’u back online this week,” it added.

Tonga’s fiber-optic communication cable was severed by the eruption of the Hunga Tonga–Hunga-Ha’apai volcano and subsequent tsunami on Jan. 15, which wiped out an entire village on one of its small outer islands and killed at least three people.

The government announced on Feb. 18 that Elon Musk’s Space X donated 50 very-small-aperture terminals (VSATs) to Tonga to assist in reestablishing connectivity in the Pacific island nation.

The donation came in response to a letter written to Musk by New Zealand’s Member of Parliament Shane Reti requesting that Musk provide his Starlink satellite Internet service to Tonga.

“Glad my tweet was picked up and that we can make a difference. Undersea cables are so damaged that cable repair ship Reliance doesn’t have enough supply on the ship,” Reti said in a Twitter post.

Fonua stated that his company tested the satellite connections this week, and they had been working well. He expressed hopes that the SpaceX connections could be used to reconnect people on some of the outer islands.

Tonga has also been grappling with its first outbreak of the coronavirus, which may have been brought in by foreign military crews aboard ships and planes delivering vital aid after the eruption.

The island nation has been placed under lockdown after two workers at the Nuku’alofa port tested positive for COVID-19, with all inter-island cargo and flights delayed until the lockdown is lifted.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Aldgra Fredly


Aldgra Fredly is a freelance writer based in Malaysia, covering Asia Pacific news for The Epoch Times.

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