16 Feb 2005

Cyclone Nancy moves towards Rarotonga while Olaf bears down on the two Samoas

10:33 am on 16 February 2005

Cyclone Nancy is now close to the main island of Rarotonga in the Cook Islands while people in Samoa and American Samoa are preparing for super cyclone, Olaf to hit later today.

Cyclone Nancy is located 75 kilometres east of Rarotonga with winds of 148 kilometres an hour at its centre.

Chief Inspector Teroi John Tini at the National Emergency Operations centre, says its impact is now being felt.

"For us here in Rarotonga, we are experiencing strong winds, rain and also heavy seas, affecting the north-eastern side of the main island. People here on Rarotonga are fully aware. They have moved from their residences nearer to the beach, just waiting to wait the strong winds out."

Some damage has been reported on the islands of Aitutaki, Atiu and Mitiaro from Nancy with trees being uprooted and power lines being brought down.

Ray Puapii at Aitutaki's hurricane centre says an initial assessment shows some damage but not as much as was experienced with Cyclone Meena last week.

There's been a lot of erosion along the beach area in the north east side of the island. Coastal vegetation are also damaged. Access to the Aitutaki Lagoon and Spa - the bridge is totally damaged.

Meanwhile, schools and offices in Samoa are closed as people brace themselves for the impact of Cyclone Olaf.

Erick Brenstrum of the New Zealand Met office says Olaf, which is expected to hit Apia in the middle of today, is a super cyclone, so there will be phenomenal seas in some areas and highly damaging winds.

We're expecting to have very destructive hurricane force winds, which would mean wind speeds of over 215 kilometres an hour with gusts momentarily up to perhaps 260 kilometres an hour. At the same time, we're expecting there'll be very heavy seas so there is likely to be sea flooding in coastal areas and the damaging waves on top of that can be very destructive.

The National Disaster Office in Samoa has evacuated people in low lying coastal areas.

A National Disaster Office member, Sala Sagato, says they've moved people inland.

I understand that the National Disaster council people are all y'know ready, and they moved all the people from the coastal areas that might be affected from the coastal high sea swells.

Samoa's Meteorological office says the northern island of Savaii will be hit first and our correspondent, Alan Ah Mu, says there have been warnings for people to be prepared.

Inevitably, there'll be a power cut and an interruption to our water supply. Both of those corporations that look after those necessities have put out notices warning people to stock up on clean water.

American Samoa is also bracing itself for Olaf.

Our correspondent in Pago Pago, Monica Miller, says residents have been taking measures to protect life and property.