11 Feb 2010

State of disaster in the Cooks after Pat batters Aitutaki

11:50 am on 11 February 2010

A state of disaster has been declared for the island of Aitutaki in the Cook Islands.

The island has taken a battering by Cyclone Pat this morning and up to 90 percent of houses have suffered roofing damage.

The cyclone is about 25 nautical miles south-west of Aitutaki, and about 120 nautical miles north of the main island Rarotonga.

Inspector Tere Pati with the disaster management office in Rarotonga, says the cyclone has caused serious damage to Aitutaki and the Prime Minister, Jim Marurai, has declared a state of disaster.

"A lot of houses have been damaged, trees were uprooted, and the road has been blocked by fallen trees and debris, no power to the island, the communication is down, but they trying at the moment to get the communication back on."

Mr Pati says the path of the cyclone is now slightly off Aitutaki and it's possible the cyclone could hit Rarotonga tonight.

He says no deaths have been reported but injuries are likely, however it is difficult to assess the situation because of the lack of communication.

The Cook Islands Police Commissioner, Maara Tetava says tourist resorts in Aitutaki appear to have weathered the storm and the airport seems to be intact.

He says the island's population of about 2000 people, are hunkering down as Cyclone Pat passes.

A lot of these houses that's been damaged are old houses. The reports that we have for the major resorts on the island, they're in good nick. No major damages there.

Mr Tetava says because of the position of the cyclone any relief teams will have to wait until the weather clears before going to Aitutaki.

Meanwhile schools and government departments on the main island of Rarotonga will be closed today.