16 Feb 2005

Cyclone Nancy buffets Rarotonga

11:15 am on 16 February 2005

People on Rarotonga in the Cook Islands are now experiencing the full effects of Cyclone Nancy while Samoa and American Samoa are preparing for super cyclone, Olaf, to hit later today.

Chief inspector Teroi John Tini at the Cook Islands National Emergency Operations centre, says Nancy, which is approximately 75 kilometres east of Rarotonga, has winds of 148 kilometres at its centre.

And, he says its impact is now obvious.

"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."

Police officer John Hosking says Nancy caused some damage overnight to other islands, uprooting trees, damaging bridges, and tearing some roofs off houses.

What she's done, is she has brought a lot of coastal damage to the islands of Aitutaki, Mitiaro, Atiu, and Mauke. When we say coastal damage, that is, it has affected a lot of the low lying areas.

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, with wind speeds of over 215 kilometres an hour at the centre and gusts up to 260 kilometres an hour.

He says the winds will be highly damaging and there will be phenomenal seas as the cyclone hits.

It sucks up the sea surface. In addition to that, the breaking waves pile up water against the sea. Add all these things together, then on top of that you put the waves, they will vary from place to place a lot but basically what we're saying is - very destructive, sea flooding. The words in English could not get worse. It's at the top end of the scale.

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.

American Samoa is also bracing itself for the onslaught of Cyclone Olaf.

Our correspondent in Pago Pago, Monica Miller, says residents have been

taking measures to protect life and property.

Coming in to town this morning from Tafuna, all the offices, the shops, the homes, have been boarded up. I don't think residents of American Samoa have prepared this much in advance for any of the past hurricanes that we have experienced in the last several years.

Monica Miller in Pago Pago.