Tonga's volcanic eruption ruptured a giant undersea internet cable and knocked the country's internet offline

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Tonga's volcanic eruption ruptured a giant undersea internet cable and knocked the country's internet offline
Eruption of the underwater volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai off Tonga.Tonga Geological Services/via REUTERS
  • An undersea volcanic eruption triggered a tsunami, which hit Tonga on January 15.
  • The eruption also severed a giant undersea internet cable, knocking Tonga's internet offline.
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The volcanic eruption that caused a tsunami to hit the island nation of Tonga has also severed the country's line of communication to the rest of the globe.

An underwater volcano named Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai erupted on January 15 with a blast force of around 10 megatons, coating Tonga's 170 islands in volcanic ash.

The eruption broke a 827 km (514 mile) undersea internet cable, knocking Tonga's internet offline.

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Tonga's government said in a statement Tuesday that communications both foreign and domestic were severed due to the damage inflicted on the cable.

"Due to the damage to the international fibre optics cable, internet is down," the statement said. The government said telecoms operators were working on getting satellite options to restore internet to Tonga.

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"Priority will be given to international calls and communication services such as emails," it said in its statement.

Craige Sloots, marketing and sales director at the cable's operator, Southern Cross Cable Network, told Reuters repairing the cable could take weeks.

"Typically, all things going well, it would take around two weeks," said Sloots. He added that this included the eight to nine days a specialised repair vessel needs to reach the affected area.

"US cable company SubCom advises it will take at least four weeks for Tonga's cable connection to be repaired," New Zealand's foreign affairs ministry said in a statement, per the BBC. SubCom is the repair contractor company for Tonga's internet cable.

Specialist vessels need to be sent out to repair underwater cables. "Its ability to repair would also be dependent, as you would expect, on any volcanic activity," Sloots told Reuters.

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