3 Mar 2005

Cyclone Percy buffets Palmerston Island and threatens other parts of Cook Islands

11:37 am on 3 March 2005

Palmerston Island in the southern Cook Islands is experiencing destructive storm force winds from Cyclone Percy this morning.

Paul Bruce, a forecaster at New Zealand's Met service, says the cyclone is now west of the island.

"Palmerston is getting destructive storm force winds with speeds of possibly up to 100 kms an hour, and quite high seas. These winds are likely to continue for another 6 to 9 hours,and then gradually ease."

Paul Bruce says Rarotonga is expected to start feeling the effects of Cyclone Percy over the next 24 hours.

Probably they'll get less winds, the winds won't be so high there, but they'll get a prolonged period of high seas.

While the cyclone moves south east towards Rarotonga, fine weather in the past day has allowed locals to begin cleaning up on Pukapuka and Nassau in the Cook Islands.

There are no reported injuries or casulties from the cyclone Percy which left a total of 640 people on Pukapuka and Nassau with only rudimentary shelter in its wake.

A boat filled with emergency supplies is headed for these northern islands and could arrive late tomorrow.

But Chief Inspector Teroi John Tini of the Emergency Operations Centre says as well as extensive damage to buildings, there's been swamping of crops, especially the taro which grows in abundance on Pukapuka.

It's unfortunate their planting area has been swamped by seawater, and if they haven't done so already, by now they will be out there diving to recover the shoots for replanting when this thing is all over.

It has been suggested that some people may have to be relocated from Nassau

Chief Inspector Tini says relocation may take place while the cleanup and rebuilding is under way.

There was a suggestion that the older folks and young children from Nassau may be relocated to Pukapuka to enable the adult population to do some cleaning and also repairing of existing buildings, and then to bring back those who have been relocated to Pukapuka.

Not all the news from Pukapuka is bad news.

Inspector Isamaera, of the Emergency Operations Centre says there were no injuries or casualties and the island's population grew by one

They had one baby born on the night of the hurricane. The baby is fine, and the mother too. They are both well. And its being rumored the baby might be named Percy.