Hercules and $750,000 to Tonga

A Hercules C-130 similar to the one the RNZAF dispatched to Tonga. Photo: Daniele Faccioli/Stocktrek Images

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Tuesday that she would be sending a C-130 Hercules to Tonga to assist the country's recovery from Cyclone Gita.

She said on Tuesday morning that the Hercules and a "contingency fund" of $750,000 had been made available to Tonga, but she was waiting to hear that it was possible to land in Tonga before dispatching the aircraft.

By midday the situation had changed.

"We've had word from the Tongan government seeking our support," Ardern told reporters before Question Time on Tuesday.

"We'll be deploying the Hercules today," Ardern said.

"We will have ten personnel on that flight which will include a mixture of defence force, fire, health, and MFAT officials to make sure that we can do everything we can," she said.

The plane will travel to Fuaʻamotu International Airport runway in Tongatapu, which was now open to emergency supply aircraft after an assessment showed only minimal damage to the runway.

A statement from the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Winston Peters, added that the plane would be loaded with family hygiene kits, shelter kits, jerry cans, and tarpaulins.

“Initial assessments indicate there has been extensive damage to homes in Nuku’alofa and some damage to commercial buildings,” Peters said.

The personnel would likely deploy immediately upon arrival. The Prime Minister said that they would be on the ground by the end of the day.

Cyclone Gita was a category 4 tropical cyclone and has been called the worst storm to hit Tonga in 60 years with winds gusting to 278 kmh.