A handout photo shows a Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 Hercules flying to Tonga with aid. AP
The first aircraft carrying humanitarian supplies arrived in Tonga on Thursday, five days after the South Pacific island nation was hit by a volcanic eruption and tsunami that devastated communities and spoiled most of its drinking water.
A Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 Hercules landed in Tonga's Fua'amotu International Airport, a defence spokesperson said, after a blanket of volcanic ash was cleared off the runway.
An Australian Globemaster military transport aircraft also landed, the ABC TV broadcaster reported.
A handout photo shows Air Force Load Master Corporal Dale Hall inspecting pallets of aid bound for Tonga. AFP
"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," New Zealand's foreign minister, Nanaia Mahuta, said in a statement, referring to the New Zealand plane.
The deliveries will be done with no contact because Tonga is desperate to make sure foreigners don't bring in the coronavirus. It has not had any outbreaks of COVID-19 and has reported just a single case since the pandemic began.
"The aircraft is expected to be on the ground for up to 90 minutes before returning to New Zealand,” Defense Minister Peeni Henare said.
An Australian Army CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift helicopter embarks on HMAS Adelaide before departing for Tonga. File/AFP
Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton said its aircraft was loaded with supplies including water desalination equipment, shelter, kitchens, and a sweeper to help remove ash from the airport. A second Australian aircraft is due to make the flight on Thursday.
The delivery of the supplies was contactless to ensure Tonga remains free of the coronavirus.
The explosion of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano on Saturday killed at least three people, sent tsunami waves rolling across the archipelago, damaging villages, resorts and many buildings and knocked out communications for the nation of about 105,000 people.
HMAS Adelaide in Brisbane before travelling to Tonga to assist in relief efforts on Wednesday. Reuters
Japan also said it would send emergency relief, including drinking water and equipment for cleaning away volcanic ash. Two Hercules aircraft and a transport vessel carrying two CH-47 Chinook helicopters would leave possibly on Thursday, the Defence Ministry said.
Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi told reporters that his ministry "will do everything we can for the disaster-hit people of Tonga.”
It released an enormous pressure wave that traversed the planet, travelling at supersonic speed at about 1,231 kilometres per hour (764 miles per hour), New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research said.
Tonga police told the New Zealand High Commission that the confirmed death toll stood at two but with communications in the South Pacific island nation cut, the true extent of casualties was not clear.
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