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New Zealand’s air relief to Tonga blocked by ash from volcanic eruption

Picture Courtesy: BBC

After Saturday’s massive volcanic eruption in Tonga, a fear of possible humanitarian crisis is increasing by the day. Tonga asked the international community to help in its time of need.

New Zealand is sending aid to the disaster-struck region, however, the ash from the volcanic eruption is blocking relief planes from landing on the capital's main airport runway. It is expected that the military ships with supplies will take days to reach the region.

The volcanic eruption in the region sparked a tsunami and severed an undersea cable, cutting off the country from the outside world. Australia and New Zealand have done surveillance flights to assess the damage.

New Zealand foreign affairs minister Nanaia Mahuta said regarding the situation, “images show ashfall on the Nuku'alofa airport runway that must be cleared before (the plane) can land.”

Red Cross's regional director, Alexander Matheou said it was likely that volcanic dust and the tsunami had contaminated Tonga's water supplies. The organization estimates that up to 80,000 people may have been affected by the tsunami.

The underwater volcano erupted on Saturday, about 65km (40 miles) north of the capital Nuku'alofa.

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