Tonga left largely uncontactable after tsunami as telephone and internet lines severed

January 16, 2022

Tsunami-hit Tonga has remained largely uncontactable due to telephone and internet links being severed.

An underwater volcano off Tonga erupted yesterday, triggering warnings of 1.2-metre tsunami waves and evacuation orders on the shores of the island and several others in the South Pacific.

The eruption caused internet and phone lines to go down at about 6.40pm local time on Saturday, leaving the 105,000 residents on the islands virtually uncontactable to people in other nations.

So far, there are no official reports of injuries or deaths on Tonga.

But two people drowned off a beach in Peru on Saturday due to unusually high waves following the eruption.

Communications are limited and so contact has not been made with coastal areas beyond the Tongan capital Nuku'alofa.

Tonga is located 2,383 kilometres (1,481 miles) northeast of New Zealand.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said: "Nuku'alofa is covered in thick plumes of volcanic dust but otherwise conditions are calm and stable.

"We have not yet received news from other coastal areas."

Ms Ardern later said the main undersea communications cable was affected, most likely because of the loss of power.

However, she also said power was being restored in some areas on the islands and local mobile phones were slowly starting to connect to networks.

Satellite images captured the volcanic eruption on Saturday as the explosion sent plumes of smoke into the air.

Concerns have grown among the Tongan community in New Zealand, who were desperate to make contact with their families back home.

Maikeli Atiola, the secretary of the Wesleyan Church of Tonga in Auckland, said: "We pray God will help our country at this sad moment. We hope everybody is safe."

Sanya Ruggiero, a communications worker in the Fijian capital Suva, described how the eruption left his "entire house shaking", despite being around 750km away from Tonga.

He said: "My doors, windows were all rattling like hell. And mine was not even as bad as others.

"Hundreds of people ran out of their homes."

Eruptions from the volcano also continued to be heard throughout the night as hundreds of people were moved to evacuation centres in Suva, while Fiji Airways was forced to cancel all its flights due to the ash clouds.

Mr Ruggiero added: "This is the worst disaster Tonga has had in living memory and the recovery from this is going to take years."

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