Tonga's Internet Restored Five Weeks After Deadly Volcanic Eruption

© REUTERS / TONGA RED CROSS SOCIETYFILE PHOTO: A general view shows damaged buildings and landscape covered with ash following volcanic eruption and tsunami in Kanokupolu, Tonga, January 23,2022
FILE PHOTO: A general view shows damaged buildings and landscape covered with ash following volcanic eruption and tsunami in Kanokupolu, Tonga, January 23,2022 - Sputnik International, 1920, 22.02.2022
Tonga’s internet connection has finally been restored following a volcanic eruption that occurred five weeks ago, which shredded the Pacific nation’s undersea cable. Residents of the Pacific island nation reported services coming back online, as well as calls coming in from family members whom they had been disconnected from.
Tonga, a nation that is made up of some 170 South Pacific islands, has a population of 105,000 residents, a majority of those live on its main island Tongatapu.
The island nation uses telecom providers Digicel and TCC, who said connection had been restored after the 92 km (57 mile) long cable had finally been fixed. “YES! TCC is restoring fiber cable internet services,” the company wrote to customers. The cable is the island’s main source for reliable internet.
Connections to the major island of Tongatapu have been restored, but Tonga Cable chief executive James Panuve says outlying islands will have to wait six to nine months before their cable connection is restored.
“We are delighted to see that our customers are connected to the outside world again,” said Digicel Tonga chief executive Anthony Seuseu.
The school chaplain for the island, Reverend Penisimani Akauola Tonga, was one of the lucky firsts to get back online for the first time in over a month. “First post on Facebook since January 15th! So Blessed for the opportunity! Malo Tonga Cable & Tonga government!” the reverend wrote.
The violent eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano caused the highest plume ever recorded. The giant cloud of ash which was measured at 31 km (19 miles) high, covered the islands in heaps of ash, disrupted the island’s supply of clean water and damaged crops at an estimated $17 million, as well as causing difficulty in rescue supply efforts.
This satellite image taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite, and released by the agency, shows an undersea volcano eruption at the Pacific nation of Tonga Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022. An undersea volcano erupted in spectacular fashion near the Pacific nation of Tonga on Saturday, sending large waves crashing across the shore and people rushing to higher ground. - Sputnik International, 1920, 19.02.2022
Volcanic Eruption in Tonga Produced Tallest Ash Plume Ever Imaged by Satellites – NASA
Repairing the cable had proved to be difficult. The repair ship used for the important project took 20 days to replace the 92 km (57 mile) long section of the underwater cable. However, that hasn’t been the worst of it.
Last week, Tonga’s prime minister said that residents have been struggling to cope with the traumatic experience of the natural disaster. “We recognise that even though we might start rebuilding some of the houses like next month or so, the mental side of it will take a bit longer,” said Prime Minister Hu'akavemeiliku Siaosi Sovaleni, who has been in his leadership role for less than a year.
The prime minister recounted the horrifying memory of the volcano’s eruption. “We were at home that night, and you know that explosion was like nothing - I mean I haven't heard something like that. It was terrible - and then all of a sudden, it was nightfall.”
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