First Aid Planes from New Zealand and Australia Arrive in Tonga

The first flights of foreign aid planes have arrived in Tonga, carrying much-needed supplies for the Pacific nation, which was left devastated by a volcanic eruption and subsequent tsunami on Saturday.

New Zealand and Australian officials said their military planes landed at Tonga’s main airport after workers cleared ash from the runway.

Both military transport planes carried water containers, kits for temporary shelters, generators, hygiene supplies, and communications equipment, in addition to a special sweeper to help keep the runway clear, which the Australian plane carried. 

Both countries have also confirmed that no personnel would disembark from their planes, and the aid drops would be contactless to prevent the risk of COVID-19 spreading to the island, which has seen just one case of the virus so far since the start of the pandemic.

“The aircraft is expected to be on the ground for up to 90 minutes before returning to New Zealand,” said New Zealand’s Defence Minister Peeni Henare.

“We are very respectful that the last thing that Tonga would need now is a Covid outbreak on top of this disaster,” added Rear Adm Gilmour, commander of New Zealand’s Joint Forces.

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