Authorities in Tonga are working with local telecommunications companies to expand network capacity in the kingdom following a volcanic eruption and tsunami.
Three people were killed in the disaster which has impacted tens of thousands in Tonga.
Water, food and shelter are still the priority in the recovery with at least 150 people from the most affected outer islands relocated to the capital.
The speaker of the legislative assembly Lord Fakafanua said an emotional welcome was held for the evacuees on arrival in Tongatapu starting with a church service.
Lord Fakafanua is also urging family overseas, who have yet to contact their loved ones to continue trying, as work continues to improve and repair telecommunications in the kingdom.
“The High Commissions of New Zealand and Australia on the ground have set up, and also with the Red Cross, systems for you to check on your loved ones if you still haven’t heard from them.
“At the same time texting and calling is now available but it is easier for those in Tonga to reach us overseas,” he said.
Digicel Tonga said a team of engineers will be flown to the island of Kao today to repair a microwave link that will restore mobile communications in two Tonga island groups.
Telecommunications remain cut off in the Ha’apai and Vava’u Group of islands in Tonga, with satellite phones being their only way of contacting the outside world.
The CEO of Digicel in Tonga, Anthony Seuseu said Digicel mobile networks are expected to be re-established within the next few days.
“We have a microwave link and it connects Tongatapu with the Ha’apai and Vava’u, and so because the cable is broken, the only way to get communication working in Ha’apai and Vava’u is through that microwave link,” he said.
Meanwhile, the first Air New Zealand flight landed at Fua’amotu International Airport in Tonga after significant ash fall was cleared from the runway.
It took off from Auckland carrying cargo including fresh water, medical supplies, garments, bedding, urgent machine and automotive parts.
A ship carrying 25 shipping containers full of donated non-perishable goods is leaving for Tonga on Wednesday night.
Hundreds of families are sending emergency supplies for people struggling without the basics almost two weeks after the volcanic eruption and tsunami.
More than 1000 drums, weighing up to 150-kilograms each, have been packed into 22 containers so far.
More than $60,000 has been raised in a New Zealand-based appeal to help children in Tonga return safely to school for the start of term next week.
Save the Children will use the appeal funds to set up safe spaces for children to learn from and are shipping critical supplies to Tonga like classroom kits, chalkboards, school bags, as well as large tents to be used as temporary classrooms.
Severe damage to some schools and complete destruction of others threatens to delay the return to school for thousands of Tongan children on Monday.
Save the Children New Zealand chief executive Heidi Coetzee said the $62,000(US$41,000) raised will also go towards replacing school books and materials.
Two planes have been sent by New Caledonian to help with relief aid in Tonga.
One Falcon 200 Guardian has carried out a reconnaissance flight over the isolated parts of Tonga on Tuesday.
The reconnaissance flight’s mission was to take photos of isolated islands surrounding Tonga to inspect the level of damage.
“Those pictures will be sent to Tongan authorities only, and are the property of the Tongan government,” army communication for the French army Karine Desfolies said.
“Operations are now at the first stage of urgent aid and we are now at the second phase, where we are delivering shelter material.”
A transport plane named “Casa transportera” is carrying freight towards Tonga on Wednesday. It will mainly carry jerrycans of water and tents, Desfolies said.
SOURCE: RNZ PACIFIC/ PACNEWS