EFESydney, Australia

The first plane carrying humanitarian aid and disaster relief arrived in Tonga from New Zealand on Thursday after a "mammoth effort" to clear the capital's airport runway of ash.

The South Pacific island nation was struck by a powerful eruption of an underwater volcano that triggered a tsunami over the weekend.

A Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 Hercules landed at Tongatapu airport just after 4 pm, Commander of Joint Forces Jim Gilmour said, according to public broadcaster Radio New Zealand.

The C-130 flight was the first to arrive at the airport in Nuku'alofa where local authorities have been working around the clock since Saturday's disaster to remove the thick layer of ash from the runway.