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Tongan virtual blackout cause remains a mystery

Tongan authorities have not ruled out foul play as the country recovers from two weeks offline.

Tonga’s international and domestic subsea cable lines were severely damaged on 20 January. Initial reports suggested the anchor of a container ship caused the damage, however police have not ruled out sabotage or human interference.

The Tongan international cable line runs from Tonga’s capital Nuku’alofa to Fiji, while the domestic line runs from Nuku’alofa to Ha’apai then on to Vava’u. Specialists involved in the repair work reportedly found two breaks along the vital optic cables of Tonga’s international lines. Two additional breaks situated a few kilometres apart were found in then domestic cable lines.

Tonga’s Cable Director Piveni Piukala told overseas media that crew members on a repair ship found a rope tangled in the domestic cable for about 100 metres. He added that the cables were twisted and damaged along that length.

Piukala said he still had doubts about the theory that a ship could have accidentally applied such a force to the cable, causing such extensive damage over such large distances.

Meanwhile Fiji International Telecommunication Limited CEO George Samisoni said the cable lines were protected by armored piping, and that sub-sea cables near and in coastal waters were usually buried three metres underground along the shore end.

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