First foreign aid flights arrive in Tonga

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A handout photo taken and released on January 20, 2022 shows Australian Air Force Load Master Corporal Dale Hall inspecting pallets of aid bound for Tonga at RAAF Base Amberley. AFP

The first humanitarian flights arrived in volcano and tsunami-stricken Tonga on January 20, five days after the dual disaster cut the Pacific kingdom off from the rest of the world.

Tonga has been inaccessible since January 15, when one of the largest volcanic explosions in decades cloaked the nation in a layer of ash, triggered a Pacific-wide tsunami and severed vital undersea communication cables.

Two large military transport planes from Australia and New Zealand touched down at Tonga’s main airport – only recently cleared of a thick layer of ash after painstaking effort.

New Zealand confirmed its C-130 Hercules has also landed.

More than 80 per cent of the archipelago’s population of 100,000 have been impacted by the disaster, the UN has estimated.

Tongans worked for days at the airport trying to clear the runway of ash so that much-needed aid could arrive.

With the air bridge now open, nations are rushing to get aid in.

Japan has announced it will send two C-130 aircraft, and nations from China to France have indicated they will also provide assistance.

But strict Covid protocols that have kept Tonga virtually virus-free mean the delivery of supplies will be “contactless”.