1 Mar 2005

Man found safe and well after search in cyclone-hit Pukapuka

12:06 pm on 1 March 2005

A 33-year-old man has been found safe and well on Pukapuka in the northern Cook Islands after he went missing during Cyclone Percy but supplies may take some time to reach the devastated areas.

Chief Inspector Teroi John Tini of the Emergency Operations Centre says a search team went out at first light to look for the man.

"The 33-year-old man was found about 4 to 500 metres away from where most of the people were sheltering. He was on one of the small islands. He is well, uninjured but feeling cold."

Chief Inspector Tini says the 600 residents of Pukapuka and the 40 on the nearby island of Nassau are staying in the schools and church buildings after almost all the houses lost their roofs.

He says there is little food, only one water tank and local crops have been destroyed but supplies may take until the end of the week to get there because the airport at Pukapuka isn't operational.

And, he says a New Zealand Air Force Hercules C130 plane is on the tarmac at Rarotonga but that has broken down and is waiting to be repaired.

Chief Inspector Tini says if it is able to fly tomorrow, it will take supplies to Manihiki for a boat waiting there which will then head to the two islands.

And, a New Zealand Air Force Orion, which has been despatched to search for an American Samoan fishing boat with seven crew, will also fly over Pukapuka and Nassau to undertake an assessment of the cyclone damage.

Cyclone Percy is currently north west of Palmerston Atoll and is heading in a southerly direction but expected to turn towards the south east, with winds of up to 2-hundred and 30-kilometres an hour.