Aid reaches Tonga, communications partially restored

The first planes carrying aid reached Tonga on Thursday, five days after the island nation was hit by a volcanic eruption and tsunami.

Australian and New Zealand aircraft touched down with water treatment gear, shelter, kitchens, and a sweeper to help remove ash from the airport.

The delivery of the supplies was contactless to ensure Tonga remains free of the coronavirus.

Over 100,000 people have been cut off from the rest of the world for days.

The disaster severed an undersea telecoms cable that was one of the few links to the outside.

Tongan lawmaker Fatafehi Fakafar -nua said he was relieved to hear from his family after telephone lines were partially restored.

"Tongan people are courageous and we're all very resilient and I think what I heard this morning was that everyone is just out sweeping the road, trying to clean up. And I think there's a general sense of trying to bring back a level of normalcy."

Footage has emerged of the aftermath showing ash-covered debris and trees torn from their roots.

At least three people were killed as the tsunami waves rolled across the archipelago.

One local journalist told Reuters the blast was deafening.

" It's like when you're in the aeroplane, couldn't hear properly but the sound, the blast, the sound was so loud, our ears were ringing and you couldn't hear anything."

Australia's high commissioner to Tonga said the loss of property had been "catastrophic" and that most home water tanks were filled with dust, not safe for drinking.

She also said villages on the western side of Tonga were very badly hit and that there was only enough food to last a few weeks.

Two more ships from New Zealand with supplies are to arrive on Friday and another from Australia setting sail on the same day.

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