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Passengers spend two nights sleeping in chapel after flight gets diverted

Passengers spend two nights sleeping in chapel after flight gets diverted

Passengers spent two nights sleeping in a church after their flight was diverted to Christchurch on New Zealand’s South Island.

Air New Zealand flight NZ971 from Tonga was due to touch down in the Kiwi city of Auckland on the North Island on 27 January, but was forced to divert 800km south due to Auckland’s runway being flooded.

Paea Fifita, who runs the Christchurch Tongan Community Hub, got a call to say his cousin’s two boys had been diverted to Christchurch airport.

He arrived to pick them up just after 8pm, only to realise the full scale of the problem.

“I hadn’t realised five more [diverted] flights had just arrived. They didn’t come through arrivals until 4.30am in the morning,” Mr Fifita told the New Zealand Herald.

“The airport and Air New Zealand staff were giving out blankets and helping, but I said to myself ‘this is not looking good’. There were people with children and elderly.”

Around 1,500 passengers were stranded in the airport on Friday night,

The Methodist Church stepped in to help, arranging around 20 camp beds in the building for travellers to sleep on, with the Christchurch Tongan Community hub putting out a request for food donations or any other help.

“Right now, some of the Tongan people are shelter at Christchurch Tongan Methodist, roughly 20 plus, but maybe more etc and some are still stranded at the Christchurch Airport,” read the message.

“If you would like to donate any food to help feed these people, please you can drop it off to the Tongan Methodist Church. Or you can stop by at the airport International arrival lounge today, and see if anyone needs help etc anyway I hope you understand.”

Most NZ971 passengers were able to board another flight to Auckland on Sunday arriving just after midnight.

“Around 1,500 airline passengers spent Friday night in the terminal and 100 did so [on Saturaday] night,” said a Christchurch airport spokesperson.

“The situation has now returned to normal.”

They added that local people had gone out of their way to help, saying: “our operations centre had lots of calls from Christchurch people offering beds to people who can’t find accommodation.”

Click Here to Read the Full Original Article at The Independent Travel…