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Runway Ash Blocks New Zealand’s Air Relief For Tonga

New Zealand is sending aid to disaster-struck Tonga, but ash on the capital’s main airport runway is preventing relief planes from landing.

It will also take days before military ships with supplies will reach the islands, said New Zealand authorities.

Fears of a possible humanitarian crisis developing on Tonga are growing after Saturday’s massive volcano eruption.

It sparked a tsunami and severed an undersea cable, cutting off the country from the outside world.

New Zealand and Australia have conducted surveillance flights to assess the damage. At least one person is confirmed to be dead, while the number of those injured is still unknown.

On Tuesday New Zealand foreign affairs minister Nanaia Mahuta said that “water is among the highest priorities for Tonga at this stage”. Aid agencies say it is likely that volcanic dust and the tsunami had contaminated Tonga’s water supplies.

She said a C-130 Hercules aircraft was on standby to fly to Tonga’s capital Nuku’alofa to deliver humanitarian aid including collapsible water containers, generators and hygiene kits.

“However images show ashfall on the Nuku’alofa airport runway that must be cleared before (the plane) can land,” she said.

On Monday about 200 Tongans had started sweeping the runway successfully clearing a 100m (330ft) stretch of tarmac, but there remained “a long way to go”, according to 1News reporter Barbara Dreaver.


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