More than a month after its single undersea fiber-optic cable was severely damaged by a volcanic eruption and tsunami, the Pacific island nation of Tonga is finally reconnected to the rest of the world.
Internet service was restored Tuesday for residents on the main island of Tongatupu, 37 days after the archipelago was devastated by an eruption of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano, located about 64 kilometers north of the capital, Nuku’alofa, followed by a tsunami that washed away entire villages.
Officials with Tonga Cable, the state-owned company that owns the cable, said a repair ship had to replace a 90 kilometer section of the cable that connected Tonga to Fiji and other international networks. Tonga Cable CEO James Panuve says restoration of service to the main island means repair crews can now focus on restoring service to Tonga’s smaller outlying islands, an operation that could take several months.
Three people in Tonga were killed in the January 15 disaster. The volcanic ash produced by the eruption of Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai turned the air over the main island toxic and contaminated the island’s fresh drinking water.
The aftermath of the disaster has been aggravated by the island’s first outbreak of COVID-19 cases, which may have been brought in by foreign crews delivering critical relief supplies to Tonga.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.