1 Mar 2005

People on Pukapuka and Nassau in Cook Islands still under shelter

4:40 pm on 1 March 2005

600 people on Pukapuka in the northern Cook Islands are packed into ten houses after cyclone Percy decimated many of the buildings, houses and other structures.

And, 40 people on nearby Nassau have moved to the school after the winds blew off the roof of the church where they were sheltering and destroyed many of their houses.

Chief inspector, John Tini, of the Emergency Operations centre, says heavy rain is forcing people to remain under shelter.

He says people on Pukapuka were at the school but they had to move from there after the cyclone ripped through.

"The school buildings - the roofing has been blown off by the wind. This is together with the two churches, the Cook Islands Christian church and also the Catholic. But, the ten houses that are still intact is being used by the population for shelter. On the island of Nassau, they were sheltering at the Catholic at one time but they are now sheltering at the school."

Chief Inspector Tini says a state of emergency has been declared for Pukapuka and Nassau.

The New Zealand Defence force is looking at how best to assist in delivering supplies to Pukapuka and Nassau.

There is reported to be a shortage of food, little clean water and local crops have been inundated with sea water.

Squadron leader, Ric Cullinane, says there a Hercules C130 which is in Rarotonga but it's not equipped to do an air drop of supplies so he says discussions are continuing.

We're looking through a range of options, depending on the condition of the airfield at Pukapuka. The Hercules in Raro may be able to land at Pukapuka. The option of sending another aircraft and crew is being looked at, and we also have the P3 Orion in the area that'll be doing a reconnaissance of the affected islands as well.

Squadron leader, Ric Cullinane.

The Cook Islands government has declared a state of emergency for Pukapuka and Nassau.