Wide range of housing in Aitutaki wrecked by Cyclone Pat, but resorts escape damage

Updated at 9:01 pm on 11 February 2010

Full assessments of the damage caused by Cyclone Pat which hit Aitutaki in the Cook Islands early today are still to be done but residents like resort operator Mike Henry say it was the most destructive wind he's ever seen.

Mr Henry says it is typically the sea surges that bother people on low lying Pacific islands like Aitutaki, but that wasn't the case this time.

He says the wind, which gusted up to 200 kilometres an hour, wrecked many houses.

"We have got a range of houses from very old ones where the rooves are not that strong, to brand new ones built to New Zealand standards, and they have lost their rooves. in my view I can see the hospital with parts of its roof missing, and I can see three houses within view of me now with no rooves."

Mike Henry says there was no damage to his house, but the garden took a battering.

He says island looks like there's been a major explosion with all the tress stripped of their foliage.

He says the island's tourist resorts escaped unscathed, though their gardens are wrecked.

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The New Zealand Government is waiting to hear from the Cook Islands Government on what assistance it will need in the wake of the destruction caused by Cyclone Pat.

A spokesman for the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully, says New Zealand is ready and willing to help but the Cooks Government is still to conduct an assessment of the impact.

Aitutaki has suffered extensive damage, causing the Cooks Government to announce a State of Disaster for the atoll, which is heavily dependent on tourism.

It also declared a State of Emergency for Rarotonga but forecasters say that the cyclone is weakening and veering away from the country's main island.

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Two New Zealand Red Cross aid workers are on standby to fly to the Cook Islands to assist the local Red Cross in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Pat.

The cyclone, which has now weakened and is moving away from the southern Cooks, caused extensive damage to Aitutaki early this morning.

The Red Cross has already sent relief items including tarpaulins, water containers, candles, first aid kits and raincoats.

Five satellite phones will also be sent to aid communications.

New Zealand Red Cross operations manager Andrew McKie says the two aid workers are specialists in information technology and telecommunications, and disaster coordination and assessment.

The Red Cross is also accepting donations for victims of the storm.

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