Tonga eruption and tsunami: New Zealand Defence Force arrives in Nuku'alofa with much-needed supplies

Desperately-needed aid has arrived in Tonga five days after the catastrophic eruption and tsunami.

Late on Wednesday night, ash was cleared from the runway in Nuku'alofa, which allowed both New Zealand and Australian defence forces to fly in.

"I anticipate there will be sanitation, water purification, shelter, hygiene kits, personal hygiene kits, food," says Rear Admiral Jim Gilmour, Commander of Joint Forces.

Back-up is also on the way, with the HMNZS Wellington due to arrive in Tonga on Thursday night. A helicopter on board will be used to fly supplies and check on the outer islands that have been wiped out.

The tsunami has left complete and utter devastation in its wake; homes and businesses are flattened and people's livelihoods are destroyed.

Tongans are in the process of cleaning up, but many fear drinking water will soon run dry. 

"What we are concerned [about] now is clean drinking water, because both of our drinking tank water has been affected by the dust due from the aftermath of the volcanic ash," says Marian Kupu, a journalist at Tonga's BroadCom.

Ashfall at Tonga International Airport.
Ashfall at Tonga International Airport. Photo credit: NZDF

That ash still covers roads and buildings in the capital, Nuku'alofa. The Basilica of St Anthony is blackened by ash when it is usually white.

The ash is also affecting the island's power supply. 

"There have been power outages around the kingdom. Some, they last for hours; some, they last for a day or two," Kupu says.

Fresh satellite images also show the scale of the damage.

"It's worrying images," Gilmour says.

Particularly for thousands of families back in New Zealand who are anxiously waiting for news about loved ones, as communication remains limited.

"And that's the most disturbing thing for them. You know, they just want to know whether family are alive or do they need anything," says Manase Lua from the Aotearoa Tonga Relief Committee.

The Aotearoa Tonga Relief Committee is preparing to send supplies to the islands. Three containers at Auckland's Mount Smart Stadium are ready to be filled and the public can donate goods from 9am on Friday.

"We are urgently seeking non-perishable goods, bottled water to send to Tonga as soon as we can," Lua says.