Easter Islanders finally able to travel home after being stranded overseas for six months

RUSSELL, New Zealand (AP) — About 25 residents from remote Easter Island who have been stranded far from their loved ones for more than six months because of the coronavirus will finally be able to return home this week on a French military plane.

The group has been stranded on Tahiti in French Polynesia. Many arrived in March planning to stay for just a few weeks, but they got stuck when the virus swept across the globe and their flights back home on LATAM airlines were canceled.

A second group of about 15 Tahitians have also been stranded on Easter Island because of the flight cancellations.

French authorities announced Tuesday they would use an Airbus A400M Atlas turboprop to repatriate both groups in a flight that would take about six hours in each direction.

Also named Rapa Nui, Easter Island is a Chilean territory located midway between Polynesia, in the South Pacific, and South America.

The French state department said it launched the mission following a request from Chilean authorities, and it was being conducted in close coordination with the French embassy in Santiago, Chile. The plane is currently deployed with the French military in Tahiti.

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