28 Feb 2017

Students pay respect to Tongan Queen Mother

7:17 pm on 28 February 2017

School students have sat along a stretch of road nearly 20 kilometres long to pay their respects to Tonga's late Queen Mother Halaevalu Mata'aho, who has been taken to the royal palace in Nuku'alofa.

The Queen Mother Halaevalu Mata'aho's body is taken through the Nuku'alofa with students paying respect

The Queen Mother Halaevalu Mata'aho's body is taken through the Nuku'alofa with students paying respect Photo: Tonganow

Queen Mata'aho died last weekend at the age of 90 in Auckland and was flown back to Tonga by a Royal New Zealand Airforce Hercules this afternoon.

The royal cortege traveled by road from the airport to the capital, with school children lining the streets along the way, some having waited more than three hours amid intermittent showers, to pay their respects.

The chair of New Zealand's Tongan Advisory Council, Melino Maka, said the remarkable scenes reminded him of when Queen Salote died.

"I remember when I was a kid, when Queen Salote's body was arriving in Tonga in 1965," Mr Maka said.

"It's a huge event for a five year old, so it will have the same feeling of some of the school children that are actually standing and paying respect to a remarkable woman," said Melino Maka.

Students prepare to welcome the late Queen Mother Halaevalu Mata'aho

Students prepare to welcome the late Queen Mother Halaevalu Mata'aho Photo: Sia Adams

Queen Mata'aho will be laid to rest at Mala'ekula, the Royal Tombs tomorrow, with Tonga marking the occasion with a special public holiday.

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