30 Mar 2005

Asbestos dust keeps scores of children out of school in Pukapuka in northern Cooks

3:47 pm on 30 March 2005

The threat of raw asbestos from roofing damaged in Cyclone Percy is keeping scores of children out of school on Pukapuka in the northern Cook Islands.

The head teacher, Vaopaaki Tearetoa, says 50 students from fourth and fifth forms have started classes in some rooms.

But Mr Tearetoa says 1-hundred and 75 other pupils can't go back because of the roofing mess, and the threat he says asbestos poses to the children's health...

"I believe that if you inhale too much of that crap, you're bound to get lung cancer later on in your life, so at the moment we are keeping students at school to a minimum."

Mr Tearetoa says there's no drinking water at the school, a month after the cyclone hit.

He says two families who've been living in a classroom filled with broken asbestos have this morning been moved to the assembly hall, where the roof is made of aluminium.