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Communication with Tonga likely won’t be restored for weeks, leaving families worried

Another concern: The giant ash cloud likely contaminated their drinking water supply.
Published: Jan. 17, 2022 at 5:50 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Two days after the massive volcano eruption and tsunami in Tonga, many in the local Tongan community said they are frustrated with the lack of information about their relatives’ safety.

“We stayed up all night trying to find out more news of what’s going on but there was not anything,” said Langitoto Tongamoa, who grew up in Tonga and whose brother and aunts still live there.

“We scrambled around to get a hold of our brother but unfortunately he was not answering his phone.”

While there are no reports so far of mass casualties, communication has largely been cut off and won’t like be restored for weeks.

“Since the fiber optic cable is cut, we are possibly seeing two weeks of no communication or limited communication,” said Annie Kaneshiro, consular agent at the Tonga Consular Agency.

The giant ash cloud also contaminated much of the drinking water supply -- which depends on rainwater and catchments.

“They have big tanks to collect rainy water to drink from. And they said it’s very dirty and the rainy water is not good anymore,” said Rev. Linita Moa, pastor at the First United Methodist Church in Honolulu, which is the oldest and largest Tongan church in the state.

Tonga churches in Hawaii plan to provide relief for the people stricken by the disasters. But without communication or aid workers on the ground, it’s hard to organize relief efforts.

The Consular Agency for Tonga here in Honolulu said it also will be difficult for Tongan natives to return home to help their relatives. That’s because the country was under strict COVID rules even before the disaster.

“I know they need the help because the whole land is covered with ash,” said Tongamoa.

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