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Tonga faces weeks with no connection to world

Tonga faces weeks with no connection to world

dpa
Wellington
A vital communication link that connects Tonga to the world will take at least four weeks to repair, the New Zealand government said on Wednesday.
The eruption of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano in Tonga on Saturday has killed at least three people, blanketed the Pacific nation in volcanic ash and sent a tsunami as far afield as Alaska, Japan and South America.
A cable which carries nearly all digital information including the internet and phone communications had broken in two places.
“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.
Digicel, an international mobile phone network provider, had set up an interim system on Tonga’s main island via satellite.
However, the connection would be “limited and patchy, covering about 10 per cent of usual capacity” and prioritising voice and text communications.
Digicel said in a statement the cable had broken in two places. One was about 37 kilometres offshore between Tonga and Fiji, while the second was near the area of recent volanic activity.
Digicel regional chief executive Shally Jannif said a cable repair ship was on its way to Tonga.
“We know how vital it is at times like this that we keep people connected. We are focused on doing everything we can to ensure that we are able to establish international connectivity with Tonga,” Jannif said.
The Tongan government had approved the arrival of New Zealand ships laden with critical supplies, Wellington said.
The ships left New Zealand on Tuesday and were expected to arrive in Tonga by Friday. One is carrying surveying equipment and dive teams as well as a helicopter, while the other has bulk water supplies and humanitarian and disaster relief stores.
A New Zealand plane loaded with collapsible water containers, generators and hygiene kits for families would land once the airport runway is cleared of ash. Work to clear the airport runway is expected to be completed on Wednesday.
New Zealand would also undertake a second surveillance flight over the area on Wednesday. It would include a survey of Fiji’s southern Lau Islands, at the request of the Fijian government, to check for potential tsunami damage.
The death toll from the eruption remains at three; two Tongan nationals and a British national.
Power has been restored and clean-up and damage assessments were ongoing in Tonga, New Zealand said.
An Australian naval ship is also being loaded with supplies to provide additional humanitarian assistance and disaster relief if requested by Tonga.

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