Humbling to see damage from Cook Is cyclone: Defence Force

A building at the Are Tamanu Resort on the atoll of Aitutaki in the Cook Island damaged after...
A building at the Are Tamanu Resort on the atoll of Aitutaki in the Cook Island damaged after tropical cyclone Pat hit early Thursday, February 11, 2010. Photo by NZ Herald.
The New Zealand Defence Force says it's amazing there were no injuries during the cyclone which slammed Aitutaki in the Cook Islands last week.

Hardly a home was left intact, after Tropical Cyclone Pat hit the holiday island on February 11.

The Defence Force has been helping islanders to repair their damaged home and restore services.

Squadron Leader Kavae Tamariki, who flew to Cooks with a Defence Force aid team in an air force Hercules, said being in such a devastated area was "pretty humbling." "I am amazed that no one got hurt when you see the amount of debris lying around."

Aid had arrived at a crucial time and fresh water, food and temporary shelters were providing relief, he said.

"The island has been hit pretty hard. There is a lot of work to do restore essential services before they begin the rebuilding process but the work has begun. We hope to make a positive impact while we are here."

He said that 68 homes were totally destroyed and "pretty much 90% of the houses have some form of damage".

"There are a lot of people who are homeless, living in churches or with other family members," Sqn Ldr Tamariki said.

Defence Force personnel were working with locals to help restore essential services and some sense of normality after the cyclone's devastating damage.

The Hercules had made four flights to take supplies from the main island of Rarotonga to Aitutaki. Emergency aid included a water purification plant from Australia which could produce 5000 litres of water an hour, temporary shelters, electrical cabling, water containers, two bobcat diggers, blankets and food. "People on the island have been very welcoming and appreciate New Zealand's help," Sqn Ldr Tamariki said.

"The reception we received when we flew into Aitutaki has been fantastic. It was surprising when you consider the amount of damage and destruction caused by the cyclone."

The New Zealand Army Engineering sent specialists from Linton including electricians, a builder, heavy plant operators and a plumber.

Sqn Ldr Tamariki said their first task was to put up temporary shelters for families who lost their homes. They would also restore electricity and the main water supply.

The New Zealand Government has made an initial contribution of $200,000 to help repair damage.


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