An RNZAF Hercules aid flight that was due to fly out to Tonga today has been delayed due to ash on the main runway.
The C-130 Hercules was on standby to leave for the island kingdom some time today following the devastating damage caused after the eruption of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai volcano and subsequent tsunami early on Saturday evening.
However, a spokesman for the NZ Defence Force confirmed this morning that that is now delayed until tomorrow or Thursday because of ash on the main runway of the island of Tongatapu.
"An air drop option was considered, but was not the preference of the Tongan authorities," he told the Herald this morning.
The delay means vital aid supplies from New Zealand - including collapsible water containers and generators - could take two days to arrive in Tonga.
The NZ Foreign Affairs & Trade said other essential supplies set to be put on that humanitarian relief flight include chainsaw packs, family hygiene kits, mother and infant kits and shelter tool kits.
Speaker of Tonga's Legislative Assembly, Lord Fatafehi Fakafanua, told Sky an Air Force plane was supposed to bring aid in, but that's been delayed because of ash at the airport.
Up to 200 volunteers tried to sweep the runway but only managed to do 100 metres yesterday, he said.
Delivering water is the highest priority, because ash has contaminated water supplies, Fakafanua said.
Royal NZ Navy ships are also being readied to deploy, but an update on whether or not that will happen today is expected to be released later on, the spokesman said.
Yesterday, authorities said those ships may be deployed ahead of a formal request for assistance from Tongan officials - given the distance to the islands.
"Further military flights are also possible to transport relief supplies and personnel as required," a statement from the Defence Force said.
An RNZAF P-2K2 Orion aircraft was sent to Tonga early yesterday. The crew surveyed the area to determine the damage caused by the eruption and subsequent tsunami.
The aircraft did not land and arrived back in Auckland yesterday evening.
British woman first death reported
The first casualty of the eruption and tsunami has been reported today, after the family of British national Angela Glover confirmed her body had been found.
The 50-year-old and her husband, James, were swept away while returning to a property they were house-sitting at to rescue their dogs.
James survived by holding on to a tree, but his wife Angela was taken by the water.
Her family told the BBC that the loss was "devastating".
Authorities said yesterday that initial reports show significant damage along the western coast of Tongatapu, including resorts and the waterfront area of northern Nuku'alofa - the country's capital city.
It is an anxious time for many Tongans around the world who continue to try to make contact with relatives back home, after the volcanic eruption caused significant damage to communications lines.
Among those lucky to make contact with relatives is New Zealand-based woman Sela Fonua, who has spoken to her brother twice since Saturday's events.
Her brother, Stan, managed to call her via a satellite phone on Sunday night and described having to shovel a thick layer of ash off the concrete outside their home in the village of Houma - about a 23 minute drive from Nuku'alofa.
Fonua also spoke to her mother, who relayed that her homeland of 'Eua - a smaller island near the island of Tongatapu - had suffered damage too; particularly along the coast.
"I'm not sure if it's the poor network connection or was it my judgement - I could still hear the shock and fright in my mum's voice," she said.
Fonua spoke to her brother again last night and said people with family members in Houma did not need to worry as there had been no damage caused, apart from the ash.
"For the rest of Tongatapu, all coastal areas except the eastern side are pretty damaged."
Her brother said eastern suburbs on Tongatapu were safe as they are higher up and there had been no inland water flow, she said.
Among those villages that are facing a large-scale clean-up is Kanokupolu, which has a population of about 350 people, as of last year's Census.
Fonua said her brother had not been to any of the outer islands, so could not say what the damage, if any, is like there.