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'Hard thing for us to do:' Elon Musk replies to National MP's plea to help Tonga

Newshub logo Newshub 21/01/2022 Mark Longley, Kethaki Masilamani
Elon Musk has replied to a request by National MP Dr Shane Reti to help get Tonga back online. © Image - Getty Images; Video - Newshub Elon Musk has replied to a request by National MP Dr Shane Reti to help get Tonga back online.

Elon Musk, the world's richest man, has replied to a request by National MP Dr Shane Reti to help get Tonga back online.  

Tonga's communication has largely been cut off from the rest of the world since the underwater volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai, located about 65km north of Nuku'alofa, erupted on Saturday. 

The eruption caused widespread damage and covered Tonga and surrounding islands in ash. It also caused a 1.2-metre tsunami which flooded the capital Nuku'alofa. 

An underwater telecommunication cable was damaged in the natural disaster, leaving the island cut off for days. 

When Reti heard, he thought he would pen a request to Elon Musk, who owns Starlink, a global provider of high-speed broadband internet. 

Starlink uses around 1700 satellites that can deliver internet access to remote locations as they orbit Earth. 

"I guess Elon Musk can only say no and if you don't ask you don't know," Reti wrote in a Twitter post.

"After the Minister told me in a phone call on Monday that the telecommunications cable to Tonga was down I immediately sent a letter to Elon to see if he would contribute Starlink to the emergency," Reti said in a tweet. 

The letter asked Musk, who is currently worth just under $400 billion, if he could see his way to providing "urgent Starlink communications to public officials and the good people of Tonga in this moment of need."  

In a reply to a tweet by Whole Mars, who posted Reti's letter, Musk said:

"This is a hard thing for us to do right now, as we don’t have enough satellites with laser links and there are already geo sats that serve the Tonga region. That is why I’m asking for clear confirmation."

Earlier Musk responded to a tweet by news agency Reuters, who posted Tonga likely to spend a month without internet cable. 

Musk replied: "Could people from Tonga let us know if it is important for SpaceX to send over Starlink terminals?"

 This prompted Reti to tweet: "This would be a good thing for Tonga. Can the community reply then please to @elonmusk

Reti had earlier told Newshub he hadn't heard back from Musk but added: 

"Like I said, if you don’t ask you don’t know and he can only say no."   

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