First relief plane lands in Tonga
The first emergency supply aircraft reached Tonga on Thursday, five days after a devastating volcanic eruption and tsunami, as dispersed communities awaited the arrival of a ship with equipment to scale up supplies of drinking water.
A Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 Hercules landed at the South Pacific island nation’s Fua’amotu International Airport, a defence spokesperson said, after a blanket of volcanic ash was cleared off the runway. The ash has spoiled much of the archipelago’s drinking water.
An Australian Globemaster C-17A military transporter also landed, with a second Australian aircraft supposed to make the flight later in the evening.
Australian defence minister Peter Dutton said the Globemaster was loaded with supplies including desalination equipment, shelter, kitchens and a sweeper to help remove ash from the airport.
“The C-17A flight today was made possible thanks to the fforts of Tongan authorities who have worked to clear a thick layer of volcanic ash from the runway,” Dutton said in a statement.