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First aid flight to Tonga arrives

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The first flights carrying fresh water and other aid to Tonga were finally able to leave Thursday after the Pacific nation’s main airport runway was cleared of ash left by a huge volcanic eruption.

A C-130 Hercules military transport plane left New Zealand carrying water containers, kits for temporary shelters, generators, hygiene supplies and communications equipment, New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said.

Australia also sent a C-17 Globemaster transport plane with another to follow that were carrying humanitarian supplies. The flights were all due to arrive in Tonga on Thursday afternoon.

The deliveries will be done with no contact because Tonga is desperate to make sure foreigners don’t bring in the coronavirus. It has not had any outbreaks of COVID-19 and has reported just a single case since the pandemic began.

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

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