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Following tsunami, Tonga islands get emergency telecom system

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Following tsunami, Tonga islands get emergency telecom system
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The eruption of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano in Tonga. (Photo credit: Tonga Geological Services, via IANS).


Wellington: Efforts are being made to restore, albeit partially the communication infrastructure in the tsunami hit Tonga, the 170-island archipelago forming the Polynesian kingdom in the Pacific Ocean.

The interim telecommunication system set up allows its connection with the rest of the world using 2G networks, New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said on Wednesday.

Digicel, the international mobile phone network provider, has set up an interim system on the main island of Tongatapu using the University of South Pacific's satellite dish which may allow 2G connection to be established on Wednesday, Xinhua news agency reported citing New Zealand's foreign ministry.

However, the said 2G connection will be of limited coverage of only 10 per cent of usual capacity and prioritising voice and SMS communications, it said. US cable company SubCom said at least four weeks are needed to repair Tonga's cable connection.

However, power in the islands country has been restored, with clean-up and damage assessments ongoing. Tongan authorities have been distributing relief supplies.

Work to clear the airport runway continues and is expected to be completed on Wednesday, said a statement of the ministry.

Eruption of volcano and onset of Tsunami

Tsunami waves hit Tonga on Saturday, following a series of violent eruptions from underwater Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano, 65 km north of the country's main island Tongatapu.

Three fatalities, two Tongan nationals and a British national, have been confirmed. No further deaths have been reported, it said.

According to the first official media release issues on Tuesday overnight, emergency response operations are underway, with initial damage assessments conducted, and relief supplies and health teams deployed to affected areas.

Water supplies have been affected by volcanic ash, it said, adding challenges to sea and air transportation remain due to damage sustained by wharves and ash covering runways.

The Tonga government has approved the arrival of two navy vessels HMNZS Wellington and HMNZS Aotearoa, which departed from New Zealand on Tuesday. They are expected to arrive in Tonga by Friday weather conditions permitting.

A C-130 Hercules aircraft of the New Zealand Air Force is on standby to deliver humanitarian aid and disaster relief stores including collapsible water containers, generators and hygiene kits for families once the airport runway is cleared.

New Zealand is continuing to assess Tonga's water transport logistics capabilities for the transport of water from HMNZS Aotearoa, which will carry bulk water supplies and humanitarian and disaster relief stores, New Zealand Defense Minister Peeni Henare said on Tuesday.

"Water is among the highest priorities for Tonga at this stage and HMNZS Aotearoa can carry 250,000 liters, and produce 70,000 liters per day through a desalination plant," Henare said.

Tonga is currently free of Covid and operates strict border controls to keep the virus out. All current support is being delivered in a contactless way. Officials are in discussions around long-term options for support, said New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta.

The New Zealand government has allocated a further 500,000 New Zealand dollars ($340,000) in humanitarian assistance, taking its initial funding total to 1 million New Zealand dollars.

The tsunami had a significant impact on part of the foreshore of Tonga, with boats and large boulders washed ashore and shops along the coast damaged.

(Based on IANS feed with minor edits)

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TAGS:Tonga volcano eruption tsunami telecom system partly restored water supply from New Zealand 
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