First flights carrying water, other aid depart for Tonga after volcanic eruption

The first flights carrying much-needed fresh water and other aid were expected to arrive in Tonga Thursday afternoon – five days after a massive volcanic eruption wreaked havoc on the Pacific nation.

New Zealand sent a C-130 Hercules military transport plane carrying water containers, generators, temporary shelter kits, communications equipment and hygiene supplies, officials said.

An aid flight from Australia was also dispatched on Thursday – and Japan said it would send two Hercules aircraft with humanitarian supplies, along with a transport vessel carrying two CH-47 Chinook helicopters.

The departures were delayed until Thursday because Tonga’s main airport runway had been covered in ash from Saturday’s eruption of the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano that triggered a tsunami.

Hundreds of homes in Tonga’s smaller outer islands were destroyed and at least three people were killed.

The first flight carrying fresh water and other aid to Tonga was finally able to leave Thursday after the Pacific nation’s main airport runway was cleared of ash left by the eruption.

Thursday’s aid deliveries have been highly-anticipated as saltwater from tsunami and volcanic ash were polluting the nation’s drinking water.

New Zealand is also sending a ship, which is expected to arrive in three to four days, that is carrying 250,000 liters of water and a desalination plant that has the capacity to produce 70,000 more liters per day.

The deliveries will be contactless as Tonga is one of the few countries without COVID.

It has not had any outbreaks of the virus and has reported just a single case since the pandemic began.

With Post wires

Air Force Load Master Corporal Dale Hall inspects pallets of Australian aid bound for Tonga.
Air Force Load Master Corporal Dale Hall inspects pallets of Australian aid bound for Tonga.
Australian Defence Force/AFP via Getty Images

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