Ethiopian journalist Addisalem Hadigu has met his twin daughters Asmera and Danait in Eritrea for the first time in 16 years.
He was among many families kept apart by decades of war and conflict between neighbours Ethiopia and Eritrea.
They were reunited in scenes of tearful joy and relief after the first commercial flight between the two nations in 20 years landed in Eritrea’s capital, Asmara.
The 58-year-old had told BBC Tigrinya last week that he had become separated from his Eritrean wife in 2002 when she crossed the border into Eritrea with their children.
“I was like a dead man walking. My life was without meaning, without taste. The border was closed to Ethiopians, so I could not go after her. I felt like I had died.”
“I used to wish my family had moved to any other country – because it would have been easier to visit them there than to cross the border into Eritrea,” Addisalem said.
Ethiopian Airlines called the flight to Eritrea – the first since the 1998-2000 border war – the “bird of peace”.
Air and road travel is now opening up between the two nations, after their leaders this month declared the “state of war” over and agreed to restore diplomatic ties.
Photos of families and loved ones reuniting after years of being apart are being shared widely on social media – including by many in the diaspora.
Passengers on historic 60-minute flight sang and danced in the aisles and flight attendants handed out roses and served champagne.
More than 450 passengers were on board the aircraft, Ethiopia’s privately owned Addis Standard news site reported.
More on Ethiopia-Eritrea thaw:
- ‘I only live to see my daughters again’
- Frozen in time: Inside Eritrea’s embassy
- Making peace with ‘Africa’s North Korea’
Demand was so high that a second flight left within 15 minutes, according to AFP news agency.
Ethiopian reunited with twin daughters in Eritrea after 16 years