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Tonga online as undersea cable fixed a month after tsunami

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This handout photo taken on January 7and made available by 2022 Planet Labs PBC on Monday shows the eruption on the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai Volcano. AFP

Tonga online as undersea cable fixed a month after tsunami

Internet connection was restored in Tonga on February 22, five weeks after a massive volcanic eruption shredded the undersea cable that connects the Pacific nation with the rest of the world.

Telecom providers Digicel and TCC said data connectivity had been restored to two main islands, after breaks in an 80km stretch of the cable were finally fixed.

Residents reported services were quickly coming back online, email seemed blazingly fast after 38 days in the internet doldrums and a slew of calls from family overseas were coming in – their voices now heard loud and clear.

“YES! TCC is restoring fibre cable internet services,” the company said in a message to customers.

The January 15 eruption was so powerful it was heard as far away as Alaska and caused a tsunami that flooded coastlines around the Pacific. It covered Tonga with ash.

Immediately after the disaster, contact with Tonga was only possible via a handful of satellite links. Although some connectivity was later restored, connections were limited.

Earlier this month Tonga Cable Ltd CEO James Panuve said a repair ship had located the severed ends of the 840km-long cable linking Tonga to Fiji that was cut in the blast.

According to UN agencies, the dual disaster also damaged 293 houses and displaced 1,525 people.

About 85 per cent of the total population were affected by the disaster, with fresh water difficult to come by and arable land covered with 6cm of ash in some places.

Despite Tonga receiving aid under strict “no-contact” protocols, the international relief effort prompted a Covid-19 outbreak in the previously virus free nation.

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