On Tuesday, January 11, 2022, an underwater volcano erupted near the archipelago that comprises the small Polynesian nation of Tonga. This resulted in 50 foot tsunami waves that destroyed more than 100 homes, with many others coated in volcanic ash. To date, three people have died.
But I only know about this because a jarring headline caught my eye: "Tonga volcanic eruption: Looks like worst-case scenario for islands' internet cable," from the New Zealand Herald. As the paper explains:
The undersea eruption over the weekend did cause a break in the cable that connects Tonga to the outside world – and that it will likely take around two weeks or longer to repair.
And that timeline could be stretched further because of the proximity of the break to the undersea volcano, and the danger of further eruptions.
In the meantime, the dust cloud from the volcano means that even satellite phone and internet connections are intermittent.
Because of that lack of internet access, it took the nation's government a week to release a public statement about the disaster:
The climate is changing at an increasingly rapid pace, and natural disasters will continue getting larger and more frequent. Besides the immediate threat to human life, this is also a threat to infrastructure that will make recovery from such disasters even more difficult. Case in point: who would have thought that to consider the impact of underwater volcanoes on a line of fiber-optic cable that facilitates communications for a hundred-thousand people?
Tonga volcanic eruption: Looks like worst-case scenario for islands' internet cable [Chris Keall / New Zealand Herald]
Image: Taro Taylor / Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)