The ETC in the Pacific was activated in 2016 under the structure of the Pacific Humanitarian Team (PHT) to support telecommunications preparedness in the region. The ETC in the Pacific is currently supporting the response to the eruption of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha-apai underwater volcano and subsequent tsunami which hit Tonga on 15 January 2022.
On 10 February, a technical team was deployed by national ETC lead—the Tongan Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Climate Change and Communications (MEIDECC)—to the remote island group of Vava’u, where access to communications has remained limited since the volcano eruption.
As a result of the deployment, the MEIDECC District Emergency Management Committee (DEMC) facility in Vava’u has been equipped with two BGAN terminals for internet connectivity as well as a satellite phone sent by WFP in Fiji.
Reports from partners in Tonga indicate that CS Reliance—the ship dispatched to repair the undersea communications cable severed in two places during the eruption—is making good progress in repairing the damage. The repair work is estimated to be completed by 20 February. It has not been confirmed if the repairs will fully re-establish both international and domestic communications in Tonga.
Tonga is under a dual state of emergency since the eruption of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano on 15 January, as well as two confirmed cases of COVID-19 on 1 February. The main island of Tongatapu remains under lockdown until 20 February in an effort to contain the spread of the virus.
The National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) responding to the volcano and tsunami disasters is including relief distribution to those isolating at home in Tongatapu as a result of close contact with any potentially positive COVID-19 cases.
Vava’u island group—situated 314 kilometres north east of Tongatapu—is also currently under lockdown after reporting six COVID-19 cases. Vava’u has been severely impacted by the lack of access to communications since 15 January.
All relief items delivered in Tongatapu continue to be held in the government relief supply warehouse for 72 hours before being released, as part of the government’s contactless response.