Satellite Loss Cuts Pacific Islands From World

The loss of a communications satellite (search) left 10 South Pacific nations and territories without telephone contact with the outside world, New Zealand communications officials said Tuesday.

A further five Pacific states and three Asian territories were also affected but had alternative backups available, Telecom New Zealand Ltd. said in a statement.

In what satellite operator Intelsat Ltd. (search) called an extremely rare event, one of its satellites moved out of alignment and was lost on Saturday. The New Zealand (search) communications company rented capacity on the lost Intelsat unit.

The satellite's loss left the Pacific Island nations of Kiribati, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, the New Zealand-administered Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau and the U.S. territory of American Samoa without communications links to other states, Telecom said.

The other countries were also affected but could plug into backup systems.

Telecom spokeswoman Sarah Berry said communications had since been restored to the Cook Islands, Samoa and the Solomon Islands and most of the islands still without satellite services will have local phone and data services but will be without international calling and data access until alternative arrangements can be made.

"Bank services, [electronic cash] services ... and airline data circuits have also been impacted and this could lead to some flight delays to and from these locations," Berry said.