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New Zealand to send Hercules for stranded New Zealanders
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16:04, December 02, 2008

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New Zealand Prime Minister John Key on Tuesday ordered the air force to send a Hercules to Malaysia to be on stand-by to help New Zealanders stranded in Thailand.

Some 200 New Zealanders have been stranded for a week after anti-government group People's Alliance for Democracy took control of Suvarnabhumi international airport and Don Muang airport, a big domestic hub.

The C-130 Hercules will leave New Zealand at about 8:30 p.m. New Zealand time Tuesday (0730 GMT) for Malaysia to stand-by for possible evacuation flights. The plane can carry about 65 passengers per flight.

Key said the government still believed commercial routes are the best option for New Zealander's trying to leave Bangkok, as there are risks moving people around the country.

He said the Hercules would act as a shuttle between Bangkok's U-Tapao military air base and Malaysia.

Key admitted it was unacceptable that both the air force's Boeing 757s, which can carry up to 200 passengers, are out of action.

He said he was told on Monday that the planes are undergoing maintenance in the United States and the work could not be done in New Zealand.

The Australian, French and Spanish national airlines have sent planes to Thailand to help get their nationals out. Key said using Australian planes remains an option.


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