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Pacific News Minute

Pacific News Minute: Repairing Tonga's undersea communications cable could take weeks

Tonga Volcano Eruption
Japan Meteorology Agency
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 on Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022.

The task of repairing the undersea communications cable that connects Tonga with the rest of the world is complicated. And it could take several weeks to fix.

Tonga relies on the international cable – part of a network of 19 undersea cables that criss-cross the south Pacific – for its phone and internet connections.

The 500-mile long cable was damaged by the massive eruption of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano, which sent tsunami waves across the archipelago and blanketed islands in ash.

The Guardian reports that while some telephone service in the country has been restored, communications remain limited, especially with the outer islands.

The head of the government-owned Tonga Cable said continuing volcanic activity was a risk to any repair ship, which would need to enter waters close to the site of the eruption.

The cable broke about 23 miles offshore of Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa. Another cut was about 29 miles offshore.

The nation of 105,000 people is now dependent on satellite communications, which were hampered by a massive dust cloud caused by the volcano.

A cable repair ship is being sent from the Papua New Guinea capital of Port Moresby, more than 2,500 miles away.

It will need to sail first for Samoa to collect equipment before heading to the site of the break.

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