People on Twitter are pointing out how Elon Musk may have offered help to Tonga before quickly backtracking and explaining that it’s a ‘hard thing’ to do.
The 50-year-old SpaceX founder was referring to the aftermath of an underwater volcano that went off on 15 January with an eruption – described as a once-in-a-millennium event – that triggered a sonic boom.
The explosion also set off a Pacific-wide tsunami which, in turn, severed the single fibre-optic cable that connects Tonga to the rest of the world, leaving many unable to connect with loved ones abroad.
Could people from Tonga let us know if it is important for SpaceX to send over Starlink terminals?
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 21, 2022
Upon finding out about the damage caused, Elon Musk replied to a news article which referred to Tonga possibly spending a month without internet.
Seeming to offer help, Musk wrote: “Could people from Tonga let us know if it is important for SpaceX to send over Starlink terminals?”
So… this means he’s sorting the internet issues out – no?
Anyway, just a few minutes later someone brought a letter from New Zealand politician, Dr Shane Reti, to his attention.
The letter, addressed to Musk, explains that the underwater volcanic eruption has broken the underwater telecommunications link with Tonga.
I guess Elon Musk can only say no and if you don’t ask you don’t know. 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 pic.twitter.com/Upg9WijWrq
— Dr Shane Reti (@DrShaneRetiMP) January 21, 2022
Dr Reti went on to say: “I am respectfully asking if you could see your way please to providing urgent Starlink internet communications to public officials and the good people of Tonga in this moment of need.”
Responding to the tweet about the letter, Musk then explained: “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.”
People were divided by the reply with one writing: “Elon offering help just to immediately set a situationally very higher bar to provide that help feels very on brand.”
Another added: “We know you don’t do this for recognition but tip of the hat for always trying to do the right thing.”
Someone else asked: “I’m confused. So why did Elon ask if he could help if it was a hard thing to do right now?”
A fourth quizzed: “So, to be clear… you are asking to see if they need your help, knowing that you can’t provide it?”