People clean debris following volcanic eruption and tsunami, in Nuku'alofa, Tonga January 18, 2022 in this picture obtained from social media on January 19, 2022. Photograph:( Reuters )
Tongan authorities requested the countries to send supplies keeping the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in mind
Tsunami-hit Tonga to receive aid after humanitarian flights finally made their way to the Pacific nation, which has been cut off from the rest of the world after a massive undersea volcanic eruption.
Aircraft from Australia and New Zealand will arrive in Tonga on Thursday carrying much-needed humanitarian supplies.
"A C17 Globemaster left from Amberley Airport Base around 7 am today [Thursday] (2000 GMT)," an Australian defence official told AFP.
Nanaia Mahuta, who is the foreign minister of New Zealand said in a statement that its air force has also sent a C-130 Hercules from Auckland. Loaded with much-needed supplies the aircraft will land in the Tongan capital Nuku'alofa at about 4 pm New Zealand time.
In a statement, Mahuta said: "The aircraft is carrying humanitarian aid and disaster relief supplies, including water containers, kits for temporary shelters, generators, hygiene and family kits, and communications equipment."
On the ground, Tongans have scrambled to clear a thick blanket of volcanic ash from Fua'amotu International Airport's runway.
Tonga's main airport, which was only recently cleared of ash after painstaking effort.
In the aftermath, Tongan authorities requested the countries to send supplies keeping the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in mind. They asked the aid drops to be near contactless in order to prevent the risk of Covid spreading to the island.
Tonga is one of the few countries to be free of the coronavirus. New Zealand said that it had agreed to receive two of its ships carrying aid and supply, despite concerns about importing a Covid outbreak. Vaccination against the virus is as high as 90% among Tongans.
New Zealand's Defence Minister Peeni Henare confirmed the delivery would be contactless. "The aircraft is expected to be on the ground for up to 90 minutes before returning to New Zealand," she said.
The volcano eruption
Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano erupted and sent tsunami waves across the Pacific on Saturday, causing massive damage and knocking out communications for the nation of about 105,000 people.
Telephone links between Tonga and the wider world were being reconnected late on Wednesday, though restoring full internet connectivity is likely to take a month or more.