Bodies of Deputy PM Lord Ma‘afu and Fr Seluini ‘Akau’ola still in NZ after flight cancellation due to Hunga Islands undersea eruption

    The flight for Tonga scheduled for today by Air New Zealand has been grounded due to fresh volcanic eruption reported near the kingdom yesterday.

    Lord Ma’afu. Photo/Tonga Parliament

    This means, the bodies of Lord Ma’afu and Fr Seluni ‘Akau’ola which were booked to be flown to Tonga this morning continued to remain with their families and kāinga in New Zealand.

    Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai started letting off steam on Sunday night, around 8:30pm (Tonga’s timezone is the same as New Zealand’s), Newshub reported.

    “A plume rose about 15km into the air, with varied reports on whether it contained ash or was just steam”, it said.

    “The explosion could be heard up to 170km away, Volcano Discovery reported, citing social media reports”.

    The body of Tonga’s Deputy Prime Minister Lord Ma’afu was scheduled to depart Auckland International Airport this morning at 9:40am on Air New Zealand Flight 1172.

    Fr Seluini ‘Akau’ola

    It was expected that Her Majesty’s Queen Nanasipau’u Tuku’aho and dignitaries would welcome Lord Ma’afu at the Fua’amotu International Airport VIP lounge at  12pm, the Prime Minister’s Office said.

    Lord Ma’afu was farewelled yesterday from the Morrison Funeral Directors in Auckland by the New Zealand Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio and New Zealand Defence Force personnel.
    “Aotearoa New Zealand was deeply saddened by the death of The Right Honourable Colonel Lord Ma’afu”, a statement posted to Facebook by the NZ High Commission office in Tonga said.
    “Condolences were passed in person to Lord Ma’afu’s family by both Minister Sio and New Zealand Defence Force Commodore Williams,” the statement said.
    “The farewell was a combination of military ceremonial and traditional Tongan marks of respect”.

    Meanwhile, the body of the Roman Catholic priest, Fr Seluini ‘Akau’ola remains in Auckland for a couple more days.

    Fr ‘Akau’ola was the first chairman of Tonga’s Pro Democracy Movement in 1992.

    He reportedly died after he suffered from what appeared to be an incurable disease.

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