Disasters & Accidents

Tonga reels under communications blackout after tsunami

Bangkok, Jan 16 (EFE).- A powerful underwater volcanic eruption that triggered a tsunami in Tonga a day ago has significantly damaged the communication system and left the South Pacific island nation virtually cut off from the world, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Sunday.

“At the moment we are mainly receiving information from our High Commission…unfortunately from the outer islands, we do not have a lot of information,” Ardern told reporters in a televised press conference.

The prime minister indicated that she has not been able to speak with her Tongan counterpart because the telephone lines remain snapped due to the damage caused to underwater telecom cables after the tsunami.

Internet blockage observatory NetBlocks said the net connectivity got severed in Tonga following the eruption of Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai underwater volcano.

The volcanic eruption could be heard hundreds of kilometers away. It caused giant waves that quickly hit the north coast of the Tongan island of Tongatapu.

Other island nations in the region, such as Fiji, Samoa, and Vanuatu, also witnessed fierce storm surges, causing floods and tidal waves as far as the coasts in Peru, Chile, Australia, the United States, and New Zealand.

The New Zealand prime minister indicated that they would send a reconnaissance flight on Monday morning provided conditions allow. At present, ash has been spotted at 63,000 feet.

She said her government pledged $500,000, “which is very much a starting point.”

A naval vessel has also been put on standby to assist if necessary.

“(There is) an urgency here. We want to make sure we are on the ground as soon as possible, but for our Navy vessels it will take several days to reach Tonga.”

She said her government needed to finely balance the need to get there quickly “but to make sure we also get the people and resources they need there as well.” EFE

wat-nc/ssk

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