Tonga

Tonga - Volcanic Eruption/Tsunami ETC Situation Report #6 (17 - 23 February 2022)

Attachments

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.

Highlights

  • As of 22 February, 90 percent of data, SMS, and voice services on Tongatapu have been restored, following repair work successfully carried out on the undersea communications cable in Tonga, which was damaged during the volcanic eruption on 15 January.

  • However, communication with the outer island groups of Ha'apai and Vava'u remains a challenge as the domestic cable—also damaged during the volcanic eruption—has not yet been repaired. The domestic cable repairs may take up to 6-9 months, depending on the extent of the damage.

  • The ETC in the Pacific is liaising with the Tongan authorities to re-assess emergency telecommunications needs in Tonga, as part of the response.

Situation overview

The Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai undersea volcano in Tonga erupted on 15 January in a blast that was felt across the entire Pacific region. The eruption caused severe disruption to communications in and from Tonga, as the undersea fibre communications cable connecting Tonga to the world and its own islands was severed in two locations.

The Government of Tonga declared a state of emergency on 16 January. The government continues to conduct damage assessments and coordinate relief items to the outer islands of Tonga.

As of 21 February, there have been over 200 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Tonga. The government has extended lockdown measures in Tongatapu and the Vava’u island group until 27 February. The remaining outer island groups—Ha’apai, ‘Eau, and the two Niuas—are not under lockdown.

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.