Tonga tsunami knocks out Internet supply

Internet in the world

At least two people have died in Tonga following the massive volcanic eruption and subsequent tsunami that hit this Polynesian island located in the Pacific Ocean on Saturday. In addition to the human and material losses, the island’s inhabitants will have to wait for at least two weeks to see communications and Internet connection restored. The tsunami seriously damaged one of the submarine cables carrying the network to the island, and it has not yet been repaired.

A tsunami has severed the undersea cable carrying Internet to the 105,000 inhabitants of the Pacific island of Tonga

In total, just over 105,000 people would be affected by this Internet blackout. Dean Veverka, the director of Southern Cross Cable Network, acknowledged to the press that the information they have is still “incomplete, but it seems that the cable has been cut and it could take more than two weeks to fix it.”

To repair it would require a submarine cable-laying vessel. The nearest one to this remote island is at Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, more than 4,000 kilometers from Tonga. The damaged cable is the one linking this island to the island of Fiji, 872 kilometers away.

The electronic devices began to fail in Tonga a few hours after the volcanic eruption. Telephone and Internet lines have since been severely weakened and some areas of the island remain totally cut off.

Australia and New Zealand are supporting the island with surveillance flights to take stock of the damage caused. These countries are also assisting the island of Toga with satellite coverage to provide its inhabitants with a minimum of telephone and cyber connection.

In total, there are 428 submarine cables in the world to provide Internet connectivity, managed by private companies such as Google and, in some cases, by social networks such as Facebook. Together they total a length of just over 1 million kilometers.

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