Volcanic ash delays aid as scale of damage emerges

Volcanic ash delays aid as scale of damage emerges

Thick ash on an airport runway was delaying aid delivery to the Pacific island nation of Tonga, where significant damage was being reported following a massive volcanic eruption and tsunami. New Zealand’s military is sending much-needed drinking water and other supplies, but said the flight would be delayed by at least a day from the ashes on the runway.

A huge ash cloud had halted earlier flights since Saturday’s eruption. New Zealand is also sending two naval ships to Tonga that will depart on Tuesday and have pledged an initial 1 million New Zealand dollars ($680,000) for recovery efforts. Australia also sent a naval ship from Sydney to Brisbane to prepare for support missions if needed.

Communications with Tonga have been extremely limited, but New Zealand and Australia sent military surveillance flights to assess damage on Monday. UN humanitarian officials and Tonga’s government “reported damage to critical infrastructure around Tongtapu,” said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

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