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Jeff Caplan’s Minute of News: Silence as Tongans await return to the grid

Jan 24, 2022, 3:45 PM | Updated: Jan 25, 2022, 12:28 pm
Tonga volcano...
Powerful undersea volcano eruption in Tonga on Friday Jan 14, 2022. The latest eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano came just a few hours after Friday's tsunami warning was lifted. Photo: Tonga Geological Services/EYEPRESS

This is an editorial piece. An editorial, like a news article, is based on fact but also shares opinions. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not associated with our newsroom. 

SALT LAKE CITY — Maybe for a week, maybe just a weekend… we all fantasize about getting off the grid. But in Tonga, everybody is off the grid. And it’s a nightmare.

I can’t think of a single situation on this globe where a country was cut off from the rest of mankind for this long. After any disaster, you see a reporter in front of it on television within hours. At the very least Twitter is flooded with videos from the scene.

But Tongans here in Utah were waiting and wondering for a full week about their families and their hometowns.

 

So how did Tonga plunge so far into digital darkness? First, the internet cable under the ocean snapped. It’s the size of a garden hose and it takes a special ship to fish out the wires and splice them. That ship is six days away.

It’ll take weeks to get the web back to the people in Tonga. The ship charges $45,000 a day. And there’s volcanic ash coating the ocean surface that might slow the trip.

In the meantime, it took the better part of a week to clear the ash off the airport runway. So no planes, and no reporters.

Most Tongans live on the main island. Just one of the 35 islands close to the volcano was hit by a 50-foot tsunami. Almost every structure was destroyed on that island. But their stories remain untold.

As their people remain off the grid.

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Jeff Caplan’s Minute of News: Silence as Tongans await return to the grid